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March newsletter: Jack's inquest

Hello there,

I hope you’re keeping well. It’s a slightly different update from me this time.
You may have seen that the inquest into the death of our son Jack concluded the Friday before last. The coroner’s findings were very powerful and will have major implications for the government and the Gambling Act review, so I wanted to provide an update.

As many of you will know, the inquest was a long time coming for a variety of reasons. It was a very intense and tough fortnight for Liz and me. I wanted to thank everyone who has supported us throughout. It really meant a great deal to have had so many messages of support and to see so many people in the courtroom or joining us online. So, thank you.

Liz and I with Jack at his graduation.
After hearing detailed testimony from a wide range of witnesses including ourselves and Jack’s friends, doctors and gambling treatment specialists, government, the Gambling Commission, GambleAware and GamCare, the coroner concluded that there had been major failings in terms of insufficient public health information, poor regulation and inadequate treatment and that these had all contributed to Jack’s death. He said that the warnings, information, and treatment available to Jack were “woefully inadequate” and pointed out that there were “still significant gaps in these areas”.

Due to the ongoing risks to the lives of others, the coroner also issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Care. This requires that the departments must respond within 56 days with “details of action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action”. We await their replies with interest and will no doubt have to consider the next steps depending on the content and proposed actions. You can read the coroner's report here.
Sky News report covering Jack's inquest.
Of course, we didn’t need a coroner to tell us that gambling killed Jack, but it was important to have an official of the state to highlight the role that woeful government failures played in Jack’s death, and to demand action.  

The coroner’s rulings also destroyed the industry-favoured “responsible gambling/individual responsibility” model, which tries to claim that the problem lies with just a few weak or flawed individuals. We were very pleased to hear the coroner state that “being addicted to gambling wasn’t his [Jack’s] fault”.  During the inquest, there was a great deal of evidence heard about the addictiveness of some gambling products.

The CEOs of GamCare and GambleAware both agreed that gambling disorder is caused by addictive gambling products and is not the result of some character flaw, as the industry and its PR would have you believe.
Dr Matt Gaskell, who leads the NHS Northern Gambling Clinic, also gave evidence and stressed it is the whole public who are at risk, not just a vulnerable few. He was very clear that everyone is at risk of developing gambling disorder: a view which was also stated by Chris Philp (the minister in charge of the Gambling Act Review) at the Gambling Reform Rally on March 8.

That acknowledgement –  from government and from across the gambling landscape – is a huge step forward and is a powerful message to the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are suffering with gambling disorder. It is not their fault; they are not weak or flawed individuals; they should not have to bear any stigma or shame; everyone is at risk.

Rather we need tougher regulation on gambling products and the practices of the industry, as well as vastly improved information on the dangers of gambling and more and much better treatment available.
Liz and I giving a statement after the coroner's conclusion.

The inquest also revealed the failures in the regulation of dangerous gambling products, some with addiction and at-risk rates of 50 per cent, and the inadequate requirements on operators to intervene and prevent harm. The coroner noted that the system of regulation “did not stop Jack gambling at a point when he was obviously addicted to gambling”. Sarah Gardner, the Deputy CEO of the Gambling Commission, which is charged with regulating gambling products and industry practices, admitted that the progress the Commission has made in addressing gambling-related suicide has been “disappointing”.

You can read more about the inquest in media coverage herehere and here.

Finally our MP, Paul Blomfield, has secured an Adjournment Debate in Parliament on March 21 titled “Gambling Act Review and coroner’s inquest into the death of Jack Ritchie”. This will give Paul a chance to present a statement and questions to the Minister who will respond. Gambling-Related Harm APPG stalwarts Carolyn Harris, Ronnie Cowan and Sir Iain Duncan Smith will be there … and we’ll be there in the public gallery. Adjournment debates are called by individual MPs and take place at the end of the day’s business … so it could be a 10pm start! You can watch it live, or after the event, here.
That’s all from me for now… it'll be a broader update next time.
As ever, thank you for your support.
Best wishes,

Charles Ritchie
Co-Chair of Trustees, Gambling with Lives

P.S. Clean up Gambling has added a new tool to their website that allows you to contact your MP in a few simple clicks to ask them to support effective gambling reform. Please do use it if you haven't been in contact already. It really makes a huge difference when MPs are contacted by their constituents – thank you.
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