A former candidate for a seat on Hyndburn Council has appeared in court accused of claiming a fellow council hopeful was a criminal.

The man, who gave his name as Reverend Paul Graeme Knighton, 48, of Masefield Close, Great Harwood, is charged under the Representation of the People Act.

The charge is that between March 12 and April 1, 2023, he made or published a false statement of fact, namely that Wayne Fitzharris was a criminal, before or during the May 2023 Hyndburn Council elections.

The statement was in relation to the personal character of a candidate, Wayne Fitzharris, for the purpose of affecting the return of that candidate at the election when he did not have reasonable grounds for believing and did not believe the statement to be true.

Knighton, who previously called himself Doctor Knighton, pleaded not guilty to the charge and was remanded on bail until the trial date of May 6, 2025.

Because of the nature of the charge, the first hearing and the trial have to be heard by the Chief Magistrate, Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring.

Knighton unsuccessfully ran as an independent in the 2023 local elections, running in the Overton ward in Hyndburn where he came last with only 62 votes, as Labour's Heather Anderson won the seat.

He also ran in the election earlier this month, again in Overton, where he achieved even fewer votes - just 52 - as Labour won again in the ward.

Mr Fitzharris was a candidate in the Altham ward as an independent and was also unsuccessful, as Labour's Steve Button defeated at-the-time council leader Miles Parkinson.