Here's a cautionary tale for doing your homework when it comes to getting tattooed.
Tony Newlands, 29, whose customers included a 17-year-old boy, worked in his girlfriend's kitchen while drinking and as a cat wandered freely around the room, a Carlisle court heard.
He used a "dirty" toothbrush to clean his tattooing tools but had no proper sterilising equipment, magistrates heard.
His unlicensed business came to light after he made an amateurish attempt at an Alice in Wonderland tattoo which covered most of the back of a woman in her 20s.
Unable to bear the pain, she asked him to stop and spent days in bed when the tattoo became infected.
In court, Newlands, from Carlisle, Cumbria, admitted a single offence of failing to ensure his customers were not exposed to risk under health and safety law.
Clare Liddle, prosecuting for Carlisle City Council, described how the woman with the Alice tattoo contacted environmental health officials and told them that Newlands had "wrecked her back".
Neither the defendant, nor the property he was using in Ridley Road, Currock, were registered for tattoo work done.
The woman revealed how she had paid up to £100 for two days of tattoo work.
Mrs Liddle said: "The work was carried out in the kitchen of the property. She described how during the tattoo, she sat on a kitchen stool and leant over the worktop.
"There was a cat in the kitchen and the defendant was drinking. He also had a few cigarette breaks during the tattoo. He used an Old Spice deodorant stick to stick the transfer onto her back. It's likely that this deodorant stick was used on other customers, creating a risk of infection."
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The woman saw no cleaning equipment, though Newlands did use gloves and disposable needles, she said.
After the second painful tattooing session, said Mrs Liddle, the girl's back became so badly infected the she could not sleep for a few days.
Both Donna Hastie, the environmental health officer who investigated the case, and legitimate local tattoo artist Colin Fell said the Alice in Wonderland tattoo was the worst they had seen.
Mr Fell said: "The colour on the toadstool has been put in too deep and has caused scarring to the skin - these scars will always be raised and will be difficult to tattoo over.
"The linework is inconsistent, some being too heavy and some too light."
There were also dark spots where the needle caught the skin, said Mr Fell.
Disguising the tattoo with another one, properly done, would cost at least £900.
Mrs Liddle estimated, judging by the equipment seized from Newlands' home, that he operated commercially, and probably did up to 150 illegal tattoos. Even Newlands admitted working as a tattoo artist for several years. One customer was a 17-year-old boy, whose age was well known by Newlands.
Public health expert Dr Nigel Calvert said in a statement that a lack of sterilisation in tattoo work created a serious infection risk, including from viruses such as hepatitis B and C and HIV.
Margaret Payne, for Newlands, said her client insisted his tattoo work was not commercial and that there was no cat in the kitchen. "He was not making a profit," she said.
Commenting on how the council wrote to the Ridley Road address in 2010 to remind the occupant that tattoo businesses had to be registered, she said the letter was not addressed to the defendant, whose partner lived at the address at the time.
She added: "It's right that he hasn't undertaken a formal apprenticeship but his father does work in the tattoo trade and was planning to set up his own shop. He works in Yorkshire and Mr Newlands has spent time watching what his father did, hoping to join him in the business."
The tattooing equipment seized from her client's house had been worth up to £1,000, added Mrs Payne.
Jailing Newlands, presiding magistrate Marcia Reid-Fotheringham said: "It's worth noting, from our point of view, that your work as a tattooist was not a hobby."
She added that his work created "extremely dangerous risks" to his customers.
Carlisle City Council's Deputy Leader Elsie Martlew, responsible for health and safety at the authority, welcomed the "strong action taken by the magistrates". "Unregistered tattooing will not be tolerated in Carlisle and where evidence is brought forward we will take action to stop these people," she said.
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