Gambling warnings woefully inadequate before teacher killed himself – coroner

English teacher Jack Ritchie died in Vietnam in 2017 aged 24.

04 March 2022

Warnings, treatment and information about the dangers of gambling were “woefully inadequate” before a young English teacher killed himself, a coroner has concluded.

Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said Jack Ritchie’s death in Vietnam in November 2017 is a “stark reminder of the terrible consequences that can flow from an addiction to gambling.”

A two-week long inquest in the city heard how Jack was 24 when he died after years of battling a gambling disorder which started when he began using fixed odds betting terminals aged 16 or 17.

Mr Ritchie’s parents, Liz and Charles Ritchie, believe that failures on the part of UK authorities to address gambling issues contributed to their son’s death.

On Friday Mr Urpeth said in a narrative conclusion that information about the dangers of gambling were available at the time of Jack’s death, as was some treatment.

But he said: “Such warnings, information and treatment were woefully inadequate and failed to meet Jack’s needs.”

Jack Ritchie inquest
Jack Ritchie, from Sheffield, who killed himself in Vietnam in 2017 following severe gambling problems (PA)

Mr Urpeth told the hearing: “Sadly, this addiction spiralled out of control and led to his suicide.”

As part of his conclusion, the coroner said that “gambling contributed to Jack’s death”.

He said he will be writing to a number of government departments with warnings about how future deaths can be prevented and particularly highlighted the need for more training for GPs about gambling disorders.

Jack Ritchie inquest
Charles and Liz Ritchie speaking outside Sheffield Town Hall (Dave Higgens/PA)

Mr Urpeth told the hearing that the “evidence showed there were still significant gaps” in provision for gambling disorders and warnings about the dangers of gambling. The coroner said: “Jack did not understand that being addicted to gambling was not his fault.

“That lack of understanding led to feelings of shame and hopelessness which, in time, led to him feeling suicidal.”

He praised Mr and Mrs Ritchie for the campaigning they have done on gambling regulation but stressed his role was not to comment on government policy.

The coroner said they had “channelled their terrible loss into a tireless battle” for reform and said he believed they had done all they could do help their son.

Mr and Mrs Ritchie believe the hearing is the first so-called Article 2 inquest in a case relating to suicide following gambling.

This means its scope included an examination of whether any arm of the state breached its duty to protect their son’s right to life.

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