The craze for dressing as clowns to frighten people likely to get worse in the run-up to Halloween, say police, as a teenager became one of the first “killer clowns” to be fined for public order offences.

The Metropolitan police warned people dressing as clowns that they could be committing an offence, saying that the prank “can leave people feeling scared, anxious and intimidated”.

“While we do not want to stop people from enjoying themselves, it is important that while having fun they remember to act in a responsible manner and understand that they could be prosecuted if a criminal offence is committed,” Cdr Julian Bennett said.

The warning came as police forces across Britain said they had received multiple reports of clown sightings by frightened members of the public, after the fancy dress craze, which has snowballed in the US over the past month, spread to the UK