Tattooists found willing to work on children as young as 11

Tattoo being done
Image caption About a fifth of adults have had a tattoo, according to a survey

Tattooists working out of their homes are willing to work on children as young as 11, the BBC has found.

It is illegal for anyone under 18 to get a tattoo, even with parental permission.

But an undercover investigation found 10 unlicensed tattooists through online forums who were willing to work on youngsters.

BBC London's Inside Out team secretly filmed three of them agreeing to 'ink' children.

Image caption Three tattooists were filmed saying they would 'ink' children under 18

After being turned down by a legitimate establishment, the natural choice for many children still determined to get a tattoo is to look on the internet.

Gail Cooper, who runs Steel Point parlour in Croydon, south London, said she has been inundated with requests, not only from those underage but also parents asking for tattoos for their children.

"It's probably about 10 a week now, which is double what it was three years ago," she said.

"The youngest I've dealt with was 12.

"Her dad wanted her tattooed and he got really angry when we wouldn't tattoo her.

"But he said he would go somewhere else, and I'm sure he did as well."

Image caption It is illegal for anyone under 18 to get a tattoo, even with parental permission

About 20% of British adults have had a tattoo, according to a You Gov survey in 2015

Ian Gray from the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health told BBC London he thinks the industry is open to abuse.

"I think there are many people making a good living out of damaging people and it's very wrong.

"Apart from the fact that you're probably having the procedure carried out by somebody who is not skilful, the big danger is that you've allowed the introduction of a blood borne virus into your body."

However some are calling for a complete rethink of the way the industry is regulated.

Professor Richard Griffith, a health policy expert at Swansea University, wants the current law to be scrapped entirely.

He said: "Young children, 14 and 15 year olds, who are deemed to be competent to make these decisions, who have sufficient maturity and intelligence, to decide whether or not to have a tattoo, under the regulated framework of a license tattoo artist, should also be allowed to have a tattoo, and benefit from the health protection that comes from having it from a licensed tattooist."

BBC Inside Out London is on BBC One in the London region on Monday 18 January at 19:30 BST, nationwide on the BBC iPlayer for 28 days thereafter.

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