In what is believed to be the first UK case of its type, two men who challenged the fixed penalty notice and refused to pay when caught, have been prosecuted for spitting in the street.
Earlier this year the two men were handed £80 fixed penalty notices for spitting by Waltham Forest council but went to court to challenge the case, which they lost last week. In court they were ordered to pay a total of £300, which included the £160 fine, a £20 victim surcharge and £120 costs to the council.
The council’s enforcement officers started issuing fixed penalty notices for spitting in the same way as they do for littering offences, as spitting is regarded as a sub-genre of littering.
Although the same council has issued around 25 fines for spitting since the beginning of the year, this is the first case that has come to court and the council’s deputy leader said he was “thrilled” that the court had backed its “tough stance”. He added that the majority of people fined for the offence pay up “because they know it’s disgusting”.
The case has provoked much debate, with some people disputing that spitting equates to littering. One professor, who is conducting an international spitting survey, has described the prosecution as “an exaggerated response to a moderate problem”, arguing that public spitting is not as prevalent in the UK as it is in India, China and Korea, the top three public spitting nations.
However, whatever the professor’s views, this landmark case could lead to more anti-spitting enforcement, as councils attempt to clean up the streets and wipe this anti-social behaviour off the public landscape.
Written by Nigel Rowley Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution, at Mackrell Turner Garrett
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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