Liverpool’s first ever case of graffiti was brought to court on May 20, 1868 as troublesome youth William Adams was tried for a mischievous act of anti-social behaviour. His offence was one of defacement upon the beautiful stonework of the recently completed Municipal Offices in Dale Street. This was a serious crime and one which officials were keen to make an example of. Magistrate Raffles was reminded that he had the power to imprison for this crime even if it was for a prisoner’s first offence, and Master Adams was quick to realise that the good people of Liverpool would not tolerate any vandalism upon their highly cherished public buildings.
PC 224 stated that he had been on duty in the vicinity of the Municipal Buildings six days previously. He had spotted the defendant using a knife to chip away at the masonry through some idle amusement and arrested him on sight. Mr Creary, clerk of the works said that the damaged caused would cost about a shilling to fix as he would have to the stone work ‘rubbed down.’
“The damage done to the building since its completion was quite disgraceful to a civilised community,” added the clerk. There were numerous unsightly marks upon the stonework but this was the first time anyone had ever been caught. “It is abominable to think that in a civilised country like this, public buildings should be exposed to damage done by the idle and careless. On the continent people respect their public buildings, but I am not going to punish the defendant for all the damage which has been done.” The magistrate paused for a moment. “At the same time, as a warning to others, I shall inflict a penalty of 10s and costs. If I find a more serious case I shall order absolute imprisonment.”