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Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021

Parents of dead gambler claim Government 'doesn't want to know' about addiction

Parents of dead gambler claim Government 'doesn't want to know' about addiction

The parents of a gambler who killed himself have claimed Government bodies ‘do not want to know’ about how their ‘perfectly happy’ son died.
English teacher Jack Ritchie, 24, who was working in Hanoi, Vietnam, died by suicide after jumping from a building in November 2017.

Sheffield Town Hall heard yesterday a coroner will look into whether or not gambling was the reason for Jack’s death.

Senior coroner David Urpeth also said the inquest would look into the information and the treatment available about the risks of gambling, and at the provision of medical treatment to Jack.

But he ruled out an investigation into the effectiveness of gambling regulations, saying he ‘could not and would not’ conduct a public inquiry into the case.

‘An inquest is not a public inquiry, therefore it cannot and will not become one in all but name,’ he said.

Jack’s parents, Liz and Charles Richie, said they were disappointed the Government ‘does not want to know what killed a perfectly healthy and happy 24-year-old’.

Speaking outside court, mum Liz, 64, criticised the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission.

‘It’s very disappointing for us that the state is still trying to narrow down the inquest as much as possible and doesn’t really want to find out what killed our son,’ she said.

‘I think the big disappointment is the department and the Gambling Commission, they should want to know what threatens the lives of our children – why don’t they?

‘I think the coroner was very clear there are very important issues that could be considered by a public inquiry.’

Paul Greaney QC, who was representing the family, told the court that the states were attempting to ‘prevent public scrutiny to the full extent of what we content were their failures’.

He told the court: ‘This is an issue of considerable importance.

‘In emails sent by Jack and a suicide note it is clear that he took his own life after being in the throws of a considerable gambling addiction.

‘Jack’s death was a personal tragedy. We deserve to learn lessons and avoid recurrence so other families can avoid tragedy.

‘We’re drawing attention to something of significant public interest and the relationship between gambling, self-harm and death.

‘The state did not provide adequate information or treatment for addiction from gambling which could have saved Jack’s and other people’s lives.

‘The state bodies are seeking to prevent public scrutiny of the full extent of what we contend were their failures.’

Earlier this year, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee assessed the Gambling Commission and the the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and found they had an ‘unacceptably weak’ understanding of the impact of gambling on people.

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and the chair of the committee, said: ‘What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that.’

A previous coroner, who has now retired, ruled during the last hearing that Article 2 would be engaged.

Article 2 inquests are enhanced inquests, held in cases where the state has ‘failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk’.

The final inquest into Jack’s death will be held at Sheffield Coroners’ Court on a provisional date of February 1, 2021 and is predicted to last two weeks.

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