Suicides give impetus to credit law changes

Proposed changes to consumer credit laws have been given added urgency by suicides prompted by out-of-control borrowing. Victims' relatives have called for more stringent checks by credit-card companies on potential customers.

Last week, a committee of MPs investigating the banking industry were told of the case of Scott Smith, who was profoundly deaf and had no regular income, and killed himself after running up debts of £15,000 on credit cards and bank loans. The 21-year-old seasonal farm worker from nnorth Norfolk had three credit cards and a personal loan.

Among those complaining about lax checks was the sister of Stephen Lewis, 37, a production worker at an engineering firm, who killed himself after running up debts of £65,000 on 19 credit cards.

The father of two, from Worksop, Nottinghamshire, who earned £22,000 a year, hid the cards on top of his wardrobe. Nine months after his death, his widow Susan was still being pursued for £700 of the debt by the Royal Bank of Scotland group. A further 11 companies tried to reclaim money shortly after Mr Lewis died.

Further pressure came after the inquest into the suicide of Dereck Rawson said it was "extraordinary" that he could build up such a huge debt.

Mr Rawson, a 51-year-old forklift truck driver from Yaxley, Cambridgeshire, hanged himself after amassing debts of almost £100,000, mostly in interest payments on 16 credit cards.