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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Rogue tattoo artists ruining victims’ lives - claim

Rogue tattoo artists operating across north Cumbria are blighting the lives of hundreds of people every year, the News & Star can reveal.

Tony Newlands photo
Tony Newlands

Experts have spoken out about the problem after a prosecution this week led to the jailing of illegal tattooist who left a young woman permanently scarred.

Despite having no qualifications, Tony Newlands, 29, worked on clients in dangerous conditions in his girlfriend’s kitchen as he drank and smoked. He used a dirty toothbrush to “clean” his tools, a court heard.

His victim – given a botched Alice in Wonderland tattoo across her back – developed a painful infection.

One professional tattoo artist and the environmental health expert who carried out the investigation say more Cumbrians than ever are falling victim to unlicensed amateurs using equipment bought from the internet.

Colin Fell, 54, a qualified tattoo artist based at Mike’s Tattoo Studio in London Road, Carlisle, said he is seeing more victims of botched tattoo work than ever.

“Every day, without fail, we get two or three people in here who have had a tattoo done at a friend’s house,” he said.

“Some of these tattoos are outrageously bad. It’s as if they were done by a two-year-old. Some of these people come into our studio in tears. One woman came in wearing dark glasses.

“Her friend had put tattoos on her eyelids – black lines, one pointing directly up and the other towards her ear.”

Colin said the problem has escalated by around 80 per cent over last decade, fuelled by the easy availability online of home tattoo kits.

He said: “They can get kits for £25, and they don’t have to have qualifications.

“The only solution is to make it illegal to sell these kits to unregistered tattoo artists. I’ve done this job for 30 years and served an apprenticeship.

“It took me five years of training before I tried anything really challenging.

“We’re seeing hundreds of people every year with bad home done tattoos. We recommend laser treatment, but you can’t repair half of them.”

Environmental health officer Donna Hastie, who investigated the Newlands case, said: “Last year we took action against three illegal tattoo artists and served notices on three more. They’re the tip of an iceberg.

“There’s been a big increase in the problem. The people who get these tattoos are the victims. The youngest we’ve seen given a tattoo by an unregistered artist was just 15.

“Often the people getting these tattoos are young – 15 and 17-year-olds.”

Many are oblivious to the risks they face – particularly from possible deadly infections, said Donna.

“When I go round to their homes and tell them they’ll have to be tested for hepatitis and HIV, you see the realisation on their face. Luckily they’ve all come back clear.

“But that’s not because of a judgement by the illegal tattoo artist. It’s luck.”

Newlands, of Bower Street, Carlisle, admitted failing to ensure his customers were not exposed to risk under health and safety law. He was jailed for 120 days.

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