A former Conservative candidate accused of electoral fraud took to the stand for the final time yesterday as the jury now considers its verdict.

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.

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

Yesterday, Thursday, May 2, Afzal continued answering prosecutor Shirlie Duckworth's cross-examination, detailing why he answered 'no comment' at the police interview.

She said: "When interviewed by the police for 46 minutes, you answered 'no comment' to all of their questions.

"Including if you knew Imran Hussain, a man you now say helped with your campaign for the Netherton ward by helping you to obtain signatures.

"By denying these offences to the jury, you are telling them it is Imran or Noreen [Hussain] who must be lying and actually did sign your papers.

"If you are not saying that, it must be you who is lying."

Noreen Hussain and Asad Mirdad gave evidence on the first day of the trial and said they did not sign the forms their signatures appeared on.

Afzal's solicitor and accredited police station representative, Ilyas Mohmed, also took the stand to explain why Afzal replied 'no comment' to the police's questions.

He said: "I tried to clarify what he had been arrested for to give me better guidance on what to advise him on, but the police gave me little information.

"All I knew he was arrested for was electoral fraud.

"He was extremely nervous, stressed and worried. He was of good character and had never been arrested before.

"He told me had had done nothing wrong and was innocent and I believed him."

Summing up the trial, Judge Andrew Jefferies KC asked the jury to make their decision based on whether they are sure the signatures were false, and if they are sure the defendant knew that.

He said: "Somebody is lying to you. Either the defendant, Imran, or Noreen. These in reality are your only options.

"If the defendant did not commit the crime, it must be one of those people.

"It is your job to decide those questions and who is lying to you.

"Afzal says you can believe him as he is of previous good character and has never been in trouble before. It is up to you to decide that.

"Politics are also irrelevant in this case. Whoever you vote for must not play a part in your decision."

The jury will resume deliberations to reach a verdict today, as the trial continues.