A former Conservative candidate accused of electoral fraud took to the stand to say he "did not understand" how to obtain assenters' signatures.

Mohammed Navid Afzal, 41, stood for the Tories in the Netherton ward in Hyndburn in 2022, and denies the charges of electoral fraud against him.

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

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

Yesterday (Wednesday, May 1), Afzal, of Whalley Road, Accrington, took to the stand to give evidence, and described to the court how he became the Conservative party candidate in the Netherton ward.

Afzal said: "I was encouraged to run for the party as they did not have a candidate, and they knew I was a people person

"I had never considered running for the council before that time, having previously worked at BT as a manager for 14 years.

"I was not given much information in obtaining signatures for my campaign.

"My understanding was that at the meetings we had with the party it was to just meet other people.

"I did not understand how the signatures worked or how candidates should conduct themselves.

"I knew I would need people to assent that I would stand as a candidate, but I did not give much importance to the nomination form itself."

Afzal was asked how he planned to get the required number of signatures, to which he replied he had "no designated plan, but had an idea that he would rally people in the local community to gain their support".

In cross-examination, Shirlie Duckworth, prosecuting, asked Afzal about the defence statement he made last year, and whether he had been an active supporter of the Labour party previously.

She asked him if he could have asked members of the community for advice and guidance on how the signature system worked, including his estranged brother and cousin who were involved in politics for Labour.

Ms Duckworth said: "There were lots of people involved in politics that you could have gone to.

"Being an elected councillor is a very important role, and people who hold that position should act with trust and integrity.

"The process they are nominated in is governed by rules. There were opportunities to meet other people from the local Conservative party for them to explain how the process works.

"You say you are a people person and find it easy to speak to people. You should not have found the issue to enquire about these details."

The jury was also told the defendant was not in the room when the allegedly invalid signatures were made for two people on Afzal’s nomination form who say they should not have been, Noreen Hussain and Asad Mirdad.

Earlier in the trial, Ms Hussain said she had no interest in politics and no memory of signing a document, adding she is unable to read written English.

Mr Mirdad said he was not involved in politics and did not know why his signature had ended up on the form, having declined to support Afzal's campaign.

Further evidence from Hyndburn councillors, a barber and a detective has also been heard in the trial.

Each nomination form needs to be signed by 10 electors, and once forms are submitted they cannot be withdrawn.

Afzal denies all offences against him.

The trial continues.