A LANDLORD who had an anti-gay sign referring to mince and faggots outside his pub has been found guilty of a public order offence.

Adrian Taylor, 54, of the Anchor and Hope Pub in Frome Road, was fined £250 with £250 costs following a half-day trial at Chippenham magistrates' court today.

Former pub landlords and gay couple John Williams, 40, and Lee Scaife, 26, from Trowbridge, reported the sign to police on May 3, after saying it referred to them and was derogatory to gay people.

The couple saw the sign, which was a blackboard attached to a post and said, "faggots and mince not on the menu" while driving past the pub, which Taylor and his wife had just taken over.

Both told the court they were disgusted and offended' at the wording.

Taylor, who has previously run pubs in Westbury and Bath, had denied writing the sign but admitted he found it amusing'.

He said: "I first noticed the sign when I was outside having a cup of tea. I looked up and smiled at it."

Asked whether he should have taken it down, he replied: "I did not put it up. The sign is accessible to any member of the public so I just left it at that."

After discussing the sign with his wife he later instructed his gardener to take it down.

Asked whether he was a homophobe, Taylor said: "No. I have a gay man working for me who has done camp nights for me at a previous pub."

Former London cabaret artist Robert Kerr, from Westbury, said he'd known Taylor for six years as a friend and on a professional basis.

He said: "I did a cabaret show for him in a previous club. It was a drag show.

"He has never made a comment or insulted me about my homosexuality."

But former landlord Mr Williams, a hairdresser, told the court the sign was a derogatory reference to gay people.

"It shocked and upset me. It was a poignant dig at gay people.

"We discussed it and decided to do something."

His partner Mr Scaife, a shoe shop manager, said: "I felt disgusted. I did not know the new owners. I wanted everyone to give them a chance.

"I felt the sign was saying we ran a gay pub just because we were gay, which is not true."

Mr Scaife's mum Carol said she phoned the pub after being told about the sign and spoke to Taylor.

After asking him about why the sign had been put up, she said Taylor replied, "It's called a sense of humour".

Deputy district judge Lynn Matthews said: "You can't simply be offensive to people and stand aside. Society does not accept this behaviour. Your were fully aware that it was causing distress."