A unique libel trial is going on in London at the moment. Unique, because the libel complained of is actually written on the body of the defendant, Oscar Gridley, tattooed on his chest. It is believed to be the first time in a libel case that the defendant is not only the defendant, he is also the main piece of evidence...
Still, perhaps things will be clearer if we bring you an extract from the case itself. We join proceedings just when Mr Gridley himself has taken the stand.
Counsel: You are Mr Oscar Gridley?
Gridley: I am Oscar "Pretty Boy" Gridley, if that's what you mean.
Counsel: You are known as "Pretty Boy"?
Gridley: In tattooing circles, yes, I am. In tribute to my amazing tattooes.
Counsel: But you were not actually christened "Pretty Boy"?
Gridley: By tattooing circles I have been, yes. In tattooing circles, if you was to ask for Oscar Gridley, they wouldn't know who you was talking about. Ask for Pretty Boy, and they'd bring you straight to me.
Counsel: But you were not actually christened "Pretty Boy" by your parents?
Gridley: No. But there wouldn't have been much point, as I wasn't tattooed when I was a baby. Just as well, really.
Counsel: Yes. A tattooed baby would not be a pleasant sight.
Gridley: Well, I don't know about that. What I meant was, tattooes on a baby wouldn't keep their shape as he grew up.
Counsel: I see.
Gridley: Not that consent would be forthcoming.
Counsel: I'm sorry?
Gridley: A tattoo cannot be put on a person without their consent. A baby cannot give consent. Therefore...
Counsel: Oh, yes - I'm with you now.
Judge: Mr Barramore, if I might interrupt...
Counsel: Yes, m'lud?
Judge: Are you thinking of getting a tattoo yourself, Mr Barramore?
Counsel: No, m'lud.
Judge: Then I suggest you consult Mr Gridley some other time about the finer points of the art, and just get on with the case.
Counsel: Straight away, m'lud. Now, Mr Gridley, you were for a while engaged to a Miss Angela Luscombe, were you not?
Gridley: Engaged? Betrothed, I would say. In tattooing circles, we like the more poetic style.
Counsel: And in what way did you celebrate your betrothal?
Gridley: We went out and got plastered.
Counsel: No, no - I meant, in what tattooing way did you celebrate?
Gridley: Oh, right. Well, I had her name tattooed on my chest. In a nice old French typeface. Two inches high. "Angela Luscombe".
Counsel: I am surprised to hear that there was enough room on your chest to take her name. I gather it was well illustrated already.
Gridley: Yes, I already had a famous painting in the middle. So I put "Angela" on one side of it and "Luscombe" on the other.
Counsel: And then I gather there was a bust-up with Miss Luscombe?
Gridley: Yes. She went off with another bloke, taking with her my heart and a valuable engagement ring.
Counsel: That's very poetic.
Gridley: I told you. In tattooing circles...
Counsel: Yes, yes, I forgot. And how did you celebrate her departure?
Gridley: I went out and got plastered.
Counsel: Ah, but in what tattooing way did you celebrate?
Gridley: I had this tattooed on me! The defendant at this point pulled open his shirt to reveal, among other things, the message "Angela Luscombe Is A Scrubber!" There was a gasp in the court at the richness and variety of his tattooes, as well as cries from supporters of "Go for it, Pretty Boy!"
Counsel: And would you not agree that the message "Angela Luscombe Is A Scrubber", no matter how prettily written, is libellous?
Gridley: No! It is fair comment! And I can prove it!
More of this sensational case tomorrow.Reuse content