There are many types of addiction, and they all affect people in different ways. However, one thing that a gambling addiction and an addiction to alcohol have in common is the fact that both will have a serious negative impact on the lives of those affected as well as to the lives of their loved ones. In many instances, addiction can affect the wider community and innocent victims too.
With a gambling addiction, for example, the urge to gamble cannot be controlled. Those who have become addicted to this activity will feel compelled to gamble even when they do not have the funds to do so. This may mean they resort to crime to get their hands on the money they need to satisfy their compulsion. When this happens, there are often innocent victims who are left hurt by the actions of the addict.
Alan Lambeth was one of four people given power of attorney over the affairs of a seventy-one-year-old pensioner after she had suffered a brain injury in 2013. However, instead of using his position to help the woman, Lambeth pilfered nearly £57,000 to fund an out-of-control gambling addiction.
He had control over her bank accounts after she was admitted to hospital in 2014, and during February and December of that year, he took out a second bank card in his name and withdrew £24,200 from the bank and another £32,730 from cash machines.
When his victim recovered from her hospital stay and was well enough to take charge of her own affairs once more, she discovered that almost all of her life savings was missing. Scott Coughtrie, who was the prosecuting lawyer in the case, said, “There was then a disclosure by the defendant, with his father present, that he had been taking money out for his personal use, knowing he was a habitual gambler. He said he was trying to get the money back from a loan, but was blacklisted because he was on a register of habitual gamblers.”
Although Lambeth initially denied taking all of the money and said that he had only stolen £12,000, he finally came clean and admitted to the theft of £56,930 from the woman’s accounts. His lawyer said he is remorseful for what he has done, and added, “He admitted these offences not just to the police, but to the family.”
He has tried to repay the woman and has so far managed to give back £1,000 from what he took. He has also sought help for his gambling addiction and has not gambled since his theft was discovered. He has joined Gambler’s Anonymous and has implemented a self-imposed ban from all Coventry betting shops.
Lambeth did try to avoid prison and cited medical health problems as grounds for a suspended sentence. He even arrived at court in a wheelchair with medical documents that stated he had arthritis, a back condition and breathing difficulties. Nevertheless, because of the breach of trust, judge Stephen Eyre QC said he had no alternative but to impose a prison sentence. He said, “You used that power of attorney to steal £56,000-odd over a period of about a year. That was a serious breach of the trust placed in you. I accept you and your wife provided real care to her, cooking for her and looking after her, but that makes it even worse that you chose to take her money. I’m going to take account of your personal circumstances and of your ill-health, and I accept you are genuinely remorseful, and that you have taken steps to address your gambling addiction. But there can be no alternative to an immediate prison sentence for this serious, sustained and deliberate dishonesty.”
The trouble with a gambling addiction is the fact that it can often progress to the very late stages without anyone being aware of it. Those affected are able to gamble in secret because of the accessibility of online gambling sites.
Provided you have access to the internet and a bank account, you can gamble from the comfort of your own home twenty-four hours a day. And all from behind the screen of a smartphone, laptop or tablet. No one need ever know what you are doing, and because there are no physical signs of a gambling addiction, many people’s addictions go unnoticed until they start to get desperate or are in dire financial straits.
Many gamblers convince themselves that they are just one spin or one hand away from a big win, and some will steal from others in the belief that they will be able to return the money before anyone notices it is missing. Unfortunately, for most gamblers, the big win never comes. Those who are lucky enough to secure a big win usually gamble it all away because they believe that their luck has finally changed and that they are going to continue winning. It is a cycle of addiction that can only be broken when the person reaches out for help or, as in the case of Alan Lambeth, they get caught.
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