UKIP’s leader on Thurrock Council missed a court appearance for drink driving because he was convalescing in hospital with pneumonia.

Councillor Robert Ray, 65, was due to appear at Basildon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday accused of driving while more than twice over the drink drive limit following a party fundraiser at Orsett Hall.

However, the clerk informed the court a letter had been received from Orsett Hospital stating he could not attend the hearing as he was presently a patient there.

Mr Ray, of Purfleet Road, Aveley, confirmed by telephone he had been in hospital since June 25 after experiencing difficulty breathing that day, following a week of flu-like symptoms, which were on Monday diagnosed as pneumonia.

“I started to feel the effects of what I considered to be flu about a week before,” he said.

“But it soon started to get out of control and by Wednesday I could just about get my breath.

“It could have been sorted today (the court case) but they didn’t want to risk it flaring up again.”

Mr Ray is accused of driving a silver Peugeot 406 in Orsett Hall car park in the early hours of June 13 with 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the limit is 35.

He has been an Aveley and Uplands councillor since May 2012 and leads the six-strong group of UKIP councillors following the party’s success in the local election.

The hearing was adjourned until July 22.