Parents of gambling addict, 24, speak out ahead of his inquest

Jack Ritchie’s family say betting law changes which have been delayed would save lives.

20 February 2022

The parents of a 24-year-old gambling addict who killed himself have said changes to betting laws could save lives but have been delayed.

An inquest for Jack Ritchie being held this week will consider issues including the state’s involvement in his death, such as medical care he received and information he had about gambling risks.

The Hull University history graduate was working as an English teacher when he died in Hanoi, Vietnam, in November 2017, after years of gambling problems dating back to his teens.

His parents, Charles and Liz Ritchie, from Sheffield, have spent the last four years arguing that failures on the part of UK authorities to address gambling issues contributed to their son’s death, and campaigning for reform through the Gambling With Lives charity they set up.

Mr and Mrs Ritchie said their son began gambling under-age at 17 when he and friends would use dinner money to play fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) at a betting shop.

They believe an undiagnosed gambling disorder lay behind his death and have argued there were no public health warnings about the risk to life posed by gambling products, and that their son was not diagnosed or offered treatment that linked his symptoms to gambling disorder.

Mr Ritchie told the PA news agency on Sunday: “Jack’s inquest will give him respect and we’re very grateful that we have a legal process that will consider what happened to our son.

“That there is a coroner listening intently to the evidence about his death is significant for us and for everyone who believes that gambling affected their lost family member.

“The inquest comes at a time the Government is reviewing our gambling laws but continues to delay the changes which we believe will save lives.

“We know the resulting devastation first-hand and every day someone else dies and another family is added to the casualty list.”

In 2020, senior Sheffield coroner David Urpeth ruled the inquest, which resumes at Sheffield Town Hall on Monday, will investigate issues including the state’s provision of medical treatment to Mr Ritchie, and the information available to him and his family about the risks of gambling.

Mr Urpeth said the inquest would include looking at “what is the system of regulation around gambling” and “whether gambling caused or contributed to Jack’s death”.

Jack Ritchie inquest
Jack Ritchie’s family say he began using betting shops when he was underage (family handout/PA)

A previous coroner, since retired, ruled in 2019 that the full hearing will be what is known as an “Article 2 inquest”.

This means it can examine whether any arm of the state breached its duty to protect Mr Ritchie’s right to life.

His family said they believe it is the first time an Article 2 inquest has been held in a case relating to gambling.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Gambling Commission have been named as interested persons by the coroner, as have the charities GambleAware and GamCare.

Witnesses from the Gambling Commission, DHSC, GambleAware and GamCare will give evidence and there will be testimony from a range of other experts.

A DCMS spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Jack’s family at this difficult time and following this tragic case.

“We will not comment further until the inquest and legal proceedings have concluded.”

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