A man has been sentenced to 15 months for committing electoral fraud offences in Derby.

Christopher Fernandez (59) was found guilty of 12 electoral fraud offences at Derby Crown Court in December following a three-week trial.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to two additional charges of making false statements on candidate nomination papers, under section 65a of the Representation of the People Act.

Fernandez had forged signatures and duped people into signing nomination papers for local elections in the city.

In March 2016, Fernandez submitted eight nomination forms to Derby City Council for the purpose of having eight Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts Party (TUSC) candidates, including himself, in the forthcoming local elections.

After the council found inconsistencies with the nomination forms, they contacted the police. An investigation found that some of the people who had signed the TUSC nomination forms also appeared on the nomination forms of candidates standing for other parties. Nominators are not permitted to sign more than one form.

Officers spoke to the nominators and several of them stated they had not known they were signing a TUSC nomination paper, or that the signature on the form was a forgery. The investigation found that the eight nomination forms, which were for candidates to stand in wards across the city, contained signatures which were forged or that people had been misled into signing the form.

Fernandez, of Wingfield Drive, Derby, was interviewed and later summonsed to magistrates’ court.

Officer in the case DC Richard Foster, of the Fraud Investigation Team, said:

“Fernandez put members of the public, from all areas of Derby, through the ordeal of having to give evidence in crown court, having already manipulated their trust and deceived them into signing nomination forms using the closure of Moorways Swimming Pool to do so. This sentence reflects that the penalties are high for those who disregard and abuse our democratic process.”

Detective Inspector Debbie King, head of the force’s Economic Crime Unit, said:

“We take all allegations of unlawful activity surrounding elections very seriously and we will investigate any accusations.

“A fair and transparent elections process is at the very heart of our democratic practice. The penalties are high for anyone who deviates from the laws which underpin the process.”

Janie Berry, Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer at Derby City Council added:

“The democratic process depends on the good faith of those who engage in it and today’s sentencing reflects the seriousness of Mr Fernandez’s breach of that good faith.

“Derby City Council continues to robustly and proactively investigate all complaints relating to elections.  Our excellent working relationship with Derbyshire Constabulary has resulted in this matter being put before the Court that clearly demonstrates our continued commitment to complete transparency in all matters related to elections in the city.

“The Council continues to work diligently to ensure that the people of Derby are reassured about the integrity of all of our election processes.”