A further three witnesses have given evidence in the trial of a former Conservative party candidate in Hyndburn accused of electoral fraud.

Mohammed Navid Afzal, 41, stood for the Tories in the Netherton ward in the poll for Hyndburn Borough Council two years ago.

He was arrested and charged in September 2022 with two counts of corrupt practice relating to two signatures on his nomination papers being invalid.

A trial began at Preston Crown Court on Monday (April 29), while the second day on Tuesday (April 30) heard evidence from three further witnesses.

Marlene Haworth, leader of Hyndburn Council and a councillor for the St Oswalds ward in Oswaldtwistle, acted as an agent for Afzal’s candidacy in the run-up to the 2022 local elections.

READ MORE: Former Hyndburn Tory candidate Navid Afzal trial begins

She said it was part of her remit to help Afzal with any campaigning he did, to inform him of the rules surrounding the election, and the things he was and was not allowed to do. She also said it was her job to make sure the nomination papers were filled in correctly.

Ms Haworth said: “My job as agent is to make sure the people who nominated him lived at the correct address, and also to make sure the correct electoral roll number had been used.

“I was made aware someone from the opposition had made an allegation the signatures on the nomination form were false and fraudulent. I cannot recall the date it was raised with me but it was after the closing date for nominations.

“I tried hard to contact the candidate and could not get hold of him. I tried for several days. He was not answering his phone. Eventually, I managed to get him and asked him whether the signatures were fraudulent. He said on three separate occasions he denied they were fraudulent signatures.”

Ms Haworth said Afzal did not give her any information about how the signatures were collected but did tell her a different story each time they spoke. She said having spoken to the police the story coming from them was different to the one given to her by Afzal.

She said: “He told me for some of the signatures he had given to a friend who was getting the nomination forms signed, but he wasn’t there when they signed them, but they definitely signed them.

“I was absolutely fuming, as my position was on the line here as agent. The buck ended with me, and of course with the police involved it was worse. I just washed my hands with the situation and let the police carry on with their investigations regarding it.

“It was gobsmacking he had done that. He had been told what was expected of him, not only by me but at meetings held by the council with the returning officer who explained the rules.”

Afzal did not attend the election count on May 5, which was won by Labour’s Jodi Clements, with Ms Howarth saying she could not understand why he did not attend.

Ms Haworth said Afzal asked to be suspended or expelled from the party until the situation was sorted.

The court also heard from Imran Hussain, a barber from Great Harwood who said he helped Afzal with his campaign for the Netherton ward by helping him to obtain signatures.

Lancashire Telegraph: Preston Crown Court Sessions HousePreston Crown Court Sessions House (Image: Archive)

Mr Hussain said they went out canvassing and knocking on doors, and he would introduce people to Afzal at his barbershop.

He said he recognised some of the names listed on the nomination form as some were his family members, some were neighbours, and one was a client of his at the shop.

Mr Hussain said he recognised the names of Noreen Hussain and Asad Mirdad, who gave evidence on the first day of trial and said they did not sign the forms – he said he was not present when these names were signed.

He added that he did not write any of the signatures himself.

Detective Constable Nicholas Walker was next to give evidence, and confirmed he was the officer in charge of the case.

He confirmed Afzal was arrested at Greenbank police station in Blackburn on May 6, 2022 and read a prepared statement saying: “I deny the offence. All paperwork in relation to the application has been filled out correctly. I wish to make no comment to all other questions.”

The trial continues.