A council has successfully prosecuted two people for spitting in a move that is expected to see authorities across the country follow suit.
Khasheem Kiah Thomas, 18, and Zilvinus Vitkas were both handed fines after being prosecuted by Waltham Forest Council in north-east London, under the same powers used to battle littering.
The council has been campaigning against spitting, issuing fixed penalty notices to people caught spitting in public places, as part of its Don't Mess with Waltham Forest campaign.
Launched in July, the campaign targets "enviro-crime" including spitting, litter, urination, dog mess, cigarette butts and takeaway litter and enforcement officers can issue fines of £80. The campaign was put to the test with the prosecutions - the first it has pursued - but councillors claimed victory after magistrates endorsed their decision.
The council said that Thomas, of Hackney, east London, was handed a fixed penalty notice in Leyton, east London, on February 20, and Vitkas, of Ilford, Essex, was caught seven days later in Walthamstow, north-east London. Both men failed to appear at Thames Magistrates' Court on Friday and were found guilty in their absence, the council said. Each were ordered to pay a total of £300 - a £160 fine, as well as a £20 victim surcharge, and £120 costs to the council.
Councillor Clyde Loakes, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the courts have backed our tough stance on this issue and have recognised the huge groundswell of opinion that is firmly behind our initiative to put an end to this disgusting habit.
"Spitting in public is a foul habit and simply not acceptable on the streets of Waltham Forest in this day and age. We made a decision to use the powers we have at our disposal to crack down on this most unsavoury behaviour. We've been issuing £80 fines to people since February, but this is the first time a case has reached the courts. The magistrates didn't hesitate to concur with us that spitting could be classified as litter."
The council said that as part of its campaign, launched in a bid to clean up the area, it has also approached the police who agree that PCSOs will issue fixed penalty notices to people they catch.
"Our residents made it very clear to us that a clean borough was a priority and we have been working extremely hard to achieve that in all sorts of ways in recent years," councillor Loakes added. "More recently, spitting recurred again and again in feedback from residents as an issue they wanted to see addressed. When we announced we would be handing out FPNs (fixed penalty notices) for spitting I received a huge amount of correspondence from both people in the borough and individuals further afield supporting our stance.
"I have also been contacted by a number of other councils who were interested to understand our approach and adopt it themselves. I think now we have tested this in the courtroom and been successful, many of those councils will be following our lead. Spitters everywhere beware."