Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Jack Ritchie gambling death: Parents say government liable

Jack Ritchie Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Jack Ritchie took his own life seven years after he began gambling at school

The parents of a gambling addict who killed himself want the government held liable for his death, a coroner has been told.

Jack Ritchie, 24, originally from Sheffield, took his own life in Hanoi, Vietnam, in November 2017.

A pre-inquest review into his death heard he had been battling an addiction to gambling since he was 17.

His family argues a failure by the UK authorities to treat gambling problems contributed to his death.

Paul Greaney QC, representing the family at Sheffield Coroner's Court, said it was "not fanciful" to suggest the state could be held to account.

He said the authorities were aware of the risks of the gambling methods, including fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and online gambling, that Mr Ritchie used.

'Risk to life'

Mr Ritchie's parents, Charles and Liz Ritchie, have asked that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to life, be engaged in his inquest.

Mr Greaney said: "It is, we suggest, a bold submission to argue that gambling, particularly on FOBTs and online, does not lead to a risk to life."

He said it was arguable that authorities had fallen short in terms of regulation, treatment and the implementation of preventative measures.

Representing the Gambling Commission, Philip Kolvin QC, said: "Regulation by its nature does not remove the risk [of gambling addiction], it adjusts the risk, it moderates the risk in a manner which is considered to allow proportionate balance between the role of many to enjoy the activity, and the protection of those that are vulnerable."

Image caption Liz and Charles Ritchie believe the government should be held to account for their son's death

The hearing heard Mr Ritchie's addiction began in 2010.

After moving to Vietnam to teach English in August 2017 and encountering further problems he agreed with his parents to install anti-gambling software.

On 22 November the same year, the day of his death, he emailed his parents saying he had not installed the software and had been gambling all day.

"The point is, I'm past the point of controlling myself and I'm not coming back from this one," he wrote.

Coroner Chris Dorries said he would issue a written ruling on the issues raised in the pre-inquest hearing on 27 August.

Adam Farrer, representing the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said it was "not the role of a coroner" to rule on government policy during a fact-finding inquest.

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