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Use of anti-littering powers to tackle spitting survives magistrates test

Magistrates last week upheld a London borough’s bid to tackle spitting in the street through powers normally used to enforce against litter.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest had announced at the beginning of the year that it was extending the issuing of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to those caught spitting in a public place.

Khasheem Kiah Thomas of Clarence Road, E5, was handed an FPN in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton on 20 February this year. Seven days later Zilvinus Vitkas of Beechworth Road, IG3 was caught in Bromley Road, Walthamstow.

Both men failed to appear at Thames Magistrates’ Court last week and were found guilty in their absence.

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The Magistrates fined each of the defendants £160. They also ordered the pair to each pay a £20 victim surcharge and the council’s costs of £120.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment at Waltham Forest, 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.”

Cllr Loakes said Waltham Forest had been issuing £80 fines to people since February, but this was the first time a case had reached the courts.

“The Magistrates didn’t hesitate to concur with us that spitting could be classified as litter,” he added.

The local authority launched a ‘Don’t Mess with Waltham Forest’ campaign in the summer, targeting six forms of enviro-crime – spitting, litter, urination, dog mess, cigarette butts and takeaway litter. For each an £80 fine can be handed out by enforcement officers.

The police have also agreed to have all police community support officers issue FPNs to individuals they catch.

Cllr Loakes said: “I have 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.”

In July Communities Secretary Eric Pickles approved Enfield Council’s plans for a byelaw that would make spitting in the street a criminal offence.

Under the proposed byelaw, it would be an offence to spit in the street ‘without reasonable excuse’. Spitting into a handkerchief or tissue would not be covered.

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