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Parents of Tory activist Elliott Johnson want inquest to explore bullying claims

Published 17/02/2016

Elliott Johnson killed himself after allegedly being bullied in the Conservative Party
Elliott Johnson killed himself after allegedly being bullied in the Conservative Party

The parents of a young Tory activist who killed himself hope to broaden the scope of a coroner's inquest to explore allegations of bullying in the party.

Elliott Johnson was found dead on railway tracks in Bedfordshire in September. Weeks earlier he had raised allegations about the way he was being treated in the Conservative youth wing.

A full inquest into the 21-year-old's death was due to take place in Ampthill next month but this has been delayed.

Instead a review hearing will allow the Johnson family's lawyers to argue that further evidence about the culture in the Conservative Party at the time should be heard.

Mr Johnson's father Ray, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, told the Press Association: "We want to ensure that the inquest covers all aspects surrounding Elliott's death.

"The original intention had been to hold a relatively short one-and-a-half-hour inquest only hearing evidence from the police.

"We've said there's more to this than simply what the police have reported and the coroner has agreed to hear our representations.

"This will include additional evidence taking the whole episode back several weeks and months to reveal the full circumstances surrounding Elliott's state of mind."

The family have already decided they will not participate in an internal review by the Conservative Party, saying they do not want to lend credibility to a process which they fear will be a whitewash.

"It's possible this inquest will be our only chance to air our concerns," Mr Johnson said.

"It is not a trial and it cannot attribute blame but it can raise points about what was going on at the time."

Elliott Johnson had alleged bullying a month before his death, sparking an investigation and the resignation of former party chairman Grant Shapps.

The allegations centre on the activities of former activist Mark Clarke, who has since been expelled from the party. Mr Clarke has strongly denied the allegations against him.

Ray Johnson says his son's concerns were brought to the party's attention on August 12, and he was found dead on railway tracks near Sandy station on September 15.

Pressure has continued to mount despite Mr Shapp's resignation. Party chairman Lord Feldman has faced calls to quit amid claims - which he has denied - that he was aware of bullying in the youth wing.

Downing Street has stressed that Lord Feldman retains the "full confidence" of Prime Minister David Cameron.

Asked about the tragedy last year, Mr Cameron said: "It is a tragic loss of a talented young life. It is not something that any parent should have to go through and I feel for them deeply. I feel deeply for his parents."

The Conservatives brought in Clifford Chance to carry out the internal investigation but the family said they are boycotting the inquiry because the law firm has failed to satisfactorily answer questions about its links to the party.

In a letter to Clifford Chance, the Johnson family solicitor said: "For all you have told us the Prime Minister could be a client and Lord Feldman good friends with senior partners of Clifford Chance."

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