Is the coroner right to say it is beyond the scope of the Elliott Johnson inquest to investigate claims that he was bullied?
A coroner’s power is limited to finding out who the deceased was; how, when and where that person met their death; and the particulars to be registered.
Coroners are very definitely not to investigate why a person died. The Court of Appeal ruled in 1994 that an inquest may not attribute blame or express judgement or opinion – and this is possible if an attempt is made to answer that question.
The reason coroners cannot ask that question is very important here: It would be unfair to those who might face criminal proceedings.
But in those cases, it is customary to adjourn an inquest after obtaining evidence of identity and cause of death, until any criminal proceedings have been completed.
Is that the case here?
It seems not.
So let us put the question of why he died to one side.
Instead, let us ask whether we can properly understand how he died without inquiring into the alleged bullying.
This Writer would suggest that we cannot. The allegations are so closely connected with the death that, ignoring them, Mr Osborne may present us with an inaccurate verdict.
It would be wrong for him to ignore that possibility.
I wonder why he is trying to.
A coroner has refused to examine allegations of bullying within the Conservative party during an inquest into the death of the Tory activist Elliott Johnson, but will investigate his dismissal from a Thatcherite pressure group weeks before his death.
Lawyers for Ray and Alison Johnson, Elliott’s parents, argued at a hearing on Wednesday that the inquest into their son’s death should consider claims the 21-year-old suffered “inhuman and degrading” treatment at the hands of the Tory election aide Mark Clarke and others in the weeks before he died.
But in a written ruling released on Friday, Tom Osborne, the senior coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, said it was “beyond the proper scope” of the inquest to call Tory party members to interrogate them over steps being taken to investigate bullying claims.
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