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Tory activist at centre of bullying row faced 'inhuman and degrading treatment'

Lawyers representing the family of a young Tory who killed himself have argued he was subject to "inhuman and degrading treatment" as they sought to widen the scope of an inquest into his death.

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 within the Conservative Party.

The Johnson family attended a hearing in Ampthill on Wednesday to argue for the scope of a full inquest be broadened to explore the culture in the Conservative Party at the time.

Heather Williams, representing them, said that under article three of the Human Rights Act 1998 public authorities were obliged to investigate when there were allegations of inhuman or degrading treatment.

She added: " It's a situation where if these allegations of bullying and intimidation were made good in evidence at an inquest, it could well be a situation where the coroner's obligation to investigate is activated.

"The family believe his death was directly linked to a series of events that occurred in the last few weeks of his life and particularly bullying he experience by Mark Clarke and those associated with him."

She added that at the time of his death, Elliott believed his career was over after his full-time position with Conservative Way Forward was made redundant.

He was also under pressure to withdraw a formal complaint made about Mr Clarke to Conservative HQ, the hearing was told.

Ms Williams said Elliott's suicide note indicated that a "terrible train of events" was the direct reason for his death.

In the note he wrote: "The past few weeks have been the worst of my life."

George Alliott , representing Conservative Way Forward, said only selected parts of the suicide note had so far been made public.

He quoted from a British Transport Police report which said the note also referred to a "failure to give his parents children", a reference to Elliott's homosexuality .

"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.

Coroner Tom Osborne will deliver his decision on what evidence will be heard at the full inquest in writing later this week.

Elliott had alleged bullying a month before his death. His allegations eventually sparked an investigation and the resignation of former party chairman Grant Shapps.

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

Pressure has continued to mount despite Mr Shapps'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.

Speaking after the inquest, lobby journalist and friend Andre Walker, who is named as betraying Elliott in his suicide note, said he hoped the full circumstances of his state of mind would be heard.

"I'm glad more of the suicide note came out today, particularly reference to homophobic discrimination," he said.

"I think it's important the mental health report is made public as any allegations of bullying are only part of the story."

The Johnson family declined to comment as they left the hearing.

Later Deighton Pierce Glynn, the law firm representing the family, released their skeleton argument submitted to the hearing.

They list a number of people they wish to call as witnesses, including Mr Clarke and Mr Walker.

It includes further details about an alleged incident on August 12 which led to Elliott making a formal complaint about Mr Clarke.

In this complaint he wrote: "I was genuinely fearful that he was going to attack me."

The legal document added: "He (Elliott) said that Mark Clarke went 'ballistic' at him, that he 'grabbed my chin' and told him that he had sued hundreds of people and he 'squashes them like ants when they are small and young'."

It continues to describe how Elliott researched suicide websites for the first time on August 20.

The lawyers argue that there is a public interest in the inquest exploring these events and the response to Elliott's complaint to prevent any risk to other young people.

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