Derby political activist on trial over 'conning' people into signing election papers

This post first appeared on Derby Telegraph. Read the original article.

A political activist from Derby “conned” people into signing nomination papers endorsing members of his party to stand in an election, a court has heard.

The prosecution claims Christopher Fernandez knocked on people's door with a petition purporting to be collecting signatures to save Moorways swimming pool.

But they allege that he then used those signatures on nomination papers so members of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition could stand in eight wards at 2016’s Derby City Council election.

The 59-year-old, of Chaddesden, has pleaded guilty to two counts, relating to forging signatures in Mackworth ward, but denies the remaining 14.

Gareth Roberts, prosecuting at Derby Crown Court said Fernandez, of Wingfield Drive, was the local agent for eight TUSC candidates at the 2016 city council elections.

He said: “In March 2016 the defendant presented himself to Derby City Council with nomination papers for candidates of this party.

“Days later, agents for other parties did the same and it was noticed that some of the signatures of nominees were the same as those presented by Mr Fernandez.

“The council began an investigation and people were visited.

“They said that a man his 50s, tall, with grey hair, had knocked at their door and told them he was collecting signatures against the closure of Moorways swimming pool.

“One of them was a mother who had children who went to the pool, and said she was only too happy to sign the petition.

“Most of the people who were spoken to said they had signed a petition to save the local pool.

“Each of them were adamant they had not signed a nomination paper for any political party.”

Mr Roberts said a total of 70 people were visited, whose names appeared on nomination papers endorsing TUSC candidates in eight council wards.

He said: “80% of them gave a similar account and that they had been duped into thinking they were signing a petition and instead their signatures had been used to nominate candidates they did not know for a political party they had never heard of.”

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Fernandez faces 16 counts of making false statements on candidate nomination papers under section 65a of the Representation of the People Act.

He has pleaded guilty to two counts, relating to Mackworth ward, but denies the remaining 14.

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.