Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Mike Freer was responding to a question from MP Andrew Bridgen, a former Conservative MP who has since moved to being an independent after being expelled from the party, over what circumstances a death certificate would describe a suicide as being related to gambling.
Freer said information recorded on death certificates is dependent on the circumstances of each individual case and is at the coroner’s discretion as an independent judicial office holder in the exercise of their statutory functions.
He added that the government recognises that quality information on the circumstances leading to self-harm and suicide, including issues relating to gambling addiction, can support better interventions.
However, he also said that while coroners may be made aware of information about the motivation or contributory factors in a suicide, it cannot be guaranteed that “consistent and comprehensive” information on a deceased person’s background would be made available to the coroner in each case.
Freer also said that asking coroners to undertake further assessment of all cases could take them beyond their legal obligations.
“Expecting coroners to routinely assess the motivation for individual suicides would take the coronial role fundamentally beyond its legal parameters, which are to determine who died, and how, when and where they died,” Freer said.
However, Freer said any information related to how gambling could have been a factor in a suicide should be included in Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) reports to support future prevention work.
“In addition to the inquest conclusion, coroners have a statutory duty to make PFD report to a person where an investigation gives rise to a concern that future deaths will occur, and the coroner considers that action should be taken to reduce that risk,” Freer said.
“PFD reports are about learning and improvements to public health, welfare and safety and could, for example, raise concerns relating to gambling addiction where the circumstances of an individual case give rise to a concern.
“To promote learning, all PFD reports and the responses to them must be provided to the Chief Coroner, and most are published on the judiciary website.”
The response comes amid an ongoing Gambling Commission consultation into a number of proposed licence changes, including a clause related to suicide.
The Commission proposed adding a new requirement to Licence Condition 15.2.2 ‘Other reportable events’ that would require all licensees to inform the regulator when they become aware that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide.
The consultation launched on 28 February and will conclude on 23 May. All stakeholders, including consumers, gambling operators and members of the public, are invited to share their views on the proposals.