Coroner rejects request for Elliott Johnson inquest to examine evidence of bullying by Tory party
- Credit: PA
A coroner has refused to broaden the scope of an inquest into the death of a young Tory who took his own life after alleged bullying.
Elliott Johnson, 21, was found dead on railway tracks in Bedfordshire in September after alleging he had been bullied by Mark Clarke, 38, who led the Conservative's RoadTrip2015 campaign.
His suicide note also said he feared his political career was over after he was dismissed from his job with pressure group Conservative Way Forward days after making the bullying complaint.
The Johnson family, from Wisbech, used a pre-inquest hearing in Ampthill on Wednesday to argue that the full inquest should hear more detailed evidence about events in the months leading up to his death, including the culture within the Conservative Party at the time.
But on Friday coroner Tom Osborne delivered a written judgment saying the original scope of the inquest was appropriate and he would not call members of the Conservative Party as witnesses.
Neither Mark Clarke or mutual friend Andre Walker will be called as they would only deny the allegations, he added.
Instead the inquest would focus on the fact Elliott believed he was being bullied and on him being made redundant by Conservative Way Forward after making the bullying allegation.
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The family's lawyers have argued that Elliott's redundancy was 'retaliatory action' linked to his bullying complaint. He was also allegedly under pressure from Mr Clarke to withdraw his complaint.
Mr Osborne said: 'The inquest is limited to answering the question as to how the deceased came by his death, will look at the circumstances of his employment and consider in detail the content of the notes left by the deceased to determine whether the correct conclusion should be that he died as a result of suicide.
'I emphasise again that an inquest is not a trial. The purpose is not to determine whether the allegations of bullying set out in the letters left by Mr Johnson were true and I will not allow the inquest to be used as a tool for putting anyone on trial.'
The coroner added that it would not be appropriate to call members of the Conservative Party to give evidence about what steps or measures they are taking to investigate the bullying allegations by one party member towards another party member.
The Johnson family said they were pleased that Conservative Way Forward's actions would be investigated by the coroner.
Father Ray Johnson added: 'It's good the coroner recognises the link between the dismissal and Mark Clarke. This is a really important step forward for the family.'
After his death on September 15, a suicide note was found in which Elliott cited the alleged bullying by Mr Clarke, a 'betrayal' by mutual friend Andre Walker and his loss of employment as reasons.
George Alliott , representing Conservative Way Forward, told Wednesday's hearing only selected parts of the suicide note had so far been made public.
Other parts, including reference to his sexuality preventing him giving his parents grandchildren, would have to be considered were the inquest to be broadened, he added.
'If the scope were to be widened, it is going to have to include reference to Elliott's mental health and his sexuality,' he added.
Speaking after the coroner's ruling, Mr Walker, who says he was in a relationship with Elliott at the time of his death, said he had hoped the inquest would have explored other issues which affected his death.
He added: 'I'm disappointed the motion to extend the inquest has been declined, it would have given us an opportunity to look at the allegations of homophobic discrimination in much more detail.
'Also it would have ensured all the previous suicide attempts were properly considered.'