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Mon, 3 August 2020

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Landmark Coroner’s Ruling on Article 2

Gambling With Lives

3 min read

Charles and Liz Ritchie 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.

On 22nd November 2017, when he was barely a month short of his 25th birthday, Jack Ritchie died as the result of injuries sustained due to a fall from a high building in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he had been teaching English as a foreign language.  Jack’s family believe that he took his own life due to the longstanding gambling disorder from which he suffered. 

An Inquest into Jack’s death will now take place before HM Coroner for South Yorkshire West District, Christopher P Dorries OBE.  At a preliminary hearing before the Coroner on 28th June 2019, Jack’s family (represented by Paul Greaney Q.C. and Jesse Nicholls, instructed by Jeremy Scott of Lupton Fawcett Solicitors) argued that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which enshrines protection of the right to life and places a positive obligation of States to protect life, had been breached.   DCMS and the Gambling Commission were represented at the hearing and argued that Article 2 was not engaged in the proceedings, contending that the focus of the Inquest should be narrow and not consider respects in which the State had or may have failed.

The thrust of the argument advanced on behalf of Jack’s family was:

  1. 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.
  2. There is evidence that Jack took took his own life due to the longstanding gambling disorder from which he suffered;
  3. There is evidence that state has failed, over many years, to regulate the dangerous activity of gambling adequately (particularly on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals [FOBTs] and online), has failed to provide adequate information to gamblers and those who care for them, and has failed to provide adequate treatment to sufferers and, moreover, may have done so due to lobbying by the gambling industry.

In his ruling on 27th August 2019, the Coroner found that Article 2 was engaged in the proceedings, ruling in favour of the family’s core submissions.  It was, he found, arguable that the State was implicated in Jack’s death in that it had not protected Jack’s life by not providing reasonable medical treatment and information about the risks inherent in gambling such as might have enabled his family to save him.  As a result of the ruling, the Inquest will look not only at how Jack came by his death in a narrow sense, but also in what circumstances he came by his death.

Charles and Liz Ritchie are grateful to the Coroner for diligently taking time to review the evidence and for coming to an important decision that Article 2 is engaged.  They commend their excellent legal team for their hard work and legal precision.  Charles and Liz 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.

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