A coroner has ruled that an inquest will consider whether the State failed in its duty to protect a gambling addict who committed suicide in 2017. 

The family of Jack Ritchie previously told of how their son’s gambling addiction began with lunchtime visits to gamble on fixed-odds betting terminals in bookmakers’ shops during school hours. He took his own life in November 2017, aged 24, in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he had been teaching English as a foreign language.

Lawyers for Mr Ritchie's parents successfully argued that the inquest should engage article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which concerns the right to life. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) opposed the application of article 2, which is typically applied in cases where the state fails to protect the deceased person from risk, such as deaths in police custody. The coroner for South Yorkshire West, Mr Christopher Dorries OBE, concluded, "The arguable case here is that the State had not provided the opportunity of meaningful medical or psychiatric treatment,” he said. “In other words, it is arguable that there was a systemic dysfunction in the lack of such provision.” Dorries also highlighted “the apparent lack of information that might assist families or others to save their loved ones”.

The result means that the parents can now seek an inquest conclusion that blames the government for not providing proper medical care for addicts or sufficient information about the dangers of gambling.

A family spokesperson said, “There is evidence of a long-established and understood link between gambling addiction and suicide, of which the State was aware prior to Jack’s death. There is evidence that Jack took his own life due to the longstanding gambling disorder from which he suffered... [the family] are pleased that the failure of the State to protect their son’s life will now come under intensive scrutiny and welcome the potential of this inquest to save many lives in the future."

Adam Hodson, a solicitor with Sydney Mitchell LLP, confirms that the case demonstrates the importance of seeking legal advice during the inquest process. "Had the family not had legal representation, they may have missed the one valuable opportunity to influence the inquest process and achieve the aim they were seeking. As a result, an inquest can now take place to carefully examine the wider circumstances surrounding Mr Ritchie's death, and may hold the State to account if there is sufficient evidence proving that it failed to protect his life".

If you wish to speak to someone in regards to matters such as this please contact Adam Hodson on 0808 166 8827 or email a.hodson@sydneymitchell.co.uk

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/28/inquest-to-consider-states-role-in-gambling-addicts-suicide?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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