A Tory councillor has declined to appear at his first magistrates hearing for allegedly making homophobic remarks.

Peter Willows, 75, of Brighton and Hove City Council allegedly said to guests at a reception hosted by the mayor of Brighton and Hove that he believed homosexuals were paedophiles.

Many prominent members of the gay community and gay media were within earshot of him at the time and afterwards he tried to excuse his behaviour saying he as drunk at the time.

Cllr Willows is due in court tomorrow where he faces a charge under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which outlaws language causing alarm, distress or harassment.

But the CPS has issued a statement after it received notification from Cllr Willows’ solicitor, “We have been informed by the solicitor’s firm representing Peter Willows, that Mr Willows will NOT be attending Brighton Magistrates Court on Friday 11th August 2006,” the statement says.

As Cllr Willows has been summonsed rather than charged and bailed he is within his rights to send a legal representative in his place. If guilty Cllr Willows could face a maximum jail term of up to six months or a £2,000 fine.

He had previously contacted the media regarding the council’s decision to fly the rainbow flag from its buildings to celebrate last May’s International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). “Why should any country have to fly a flag because of men sleeping together to have sex?” Mr Willows said. “In my world that does not justify flying any flag. It’s an unnatural act”.

He later apologised for the letter, stating: “I believe LGBT people contribute positively to our society in Brighton and Hove and in the wider world.”

The Conservative group on the city council has suspended Cllr Willows from committees pending the outcome of the case.