Coroner condemns 'woefully inadequate' gambling addiction support after Sheffield teacher's suicide

Jack Ritchie
Jack Ritchie took his own life in 2017 Credit: Family handout

An English teacher from Sheffield who killed himself after becoming addicted to gambling was failed by the "woefully inadequate" system in place to help those with problems, a coroner has concluded.

Jack Ritchie, who was 24, took his own life in Vietnam in 2017 after running up huge debts.

Following a two-week inquest into his death, coroner David Urpeth gave a narrative conclusion and said he would write to the government with warnings about how future deaths can be prevented.

He said there was a particular need for more training for GPs about gambling disorders.

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."

Warnings, treatment and information about the dangers of gambling were "woefully inadequate" he said.

The inquest heard Mr Ritchie developed problems after he started using fixed odds betting terminals aged 16 or 17.

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

After Jack's death they set up the charity Gambling With Lives, to call for reform of the industry.

The coroner 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.

Liz and Charles Ritchie spoke outside the coroner's court Credit: ITV News

'Abused by parasitical gambling companies'

In a statement after the inquest, Jack Ritchie's parents said: "This inquest is about justice for our Jack. Jack died wrongly believing he was the problem.

"He was abused by parasitical gambling companies who create a deadly disorder for profit and then blame the victims, saying they should have gambled 'responsibly'.

"We know that Jack was not the problem and in our grief we are also victims of a predatory industry and a collusive government."

In response, the Gambling Commission said in a statement that it had met with Mr and Mrs Ritchie to "learn from their experience" and "make Britain’s gambling market fairer and safer". 

It added: "Since Jack’s death in 2017 we have accelerated our drive to make gambling safer.

"This has included increased enforcement and compliance activity, clamped down ononline slots products, increased online age and ID verification and strengthened  customer interaction requirements, banned gambling on credit cards, forced operators to take part in a national online self-exclusion scheme and brought in new rules to stamp out irresponsible 'VIP customer' practices."

Help and support

  • The NHS offers advice for people experiencing problems

  • GamCare offers free information and support

  • The Samaritans is on 24 hours a day hand for anyone having a difficult time. Call: 116 123