Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Code of Practice

Throughout the UK there is no general statutory age limit on the age of persons to be body-pierced or undergo cosmetic body art, however it is recognised that these treatments and procedures should only be provided to those of a consensual age who are able to make an informed choice.

The purpose of this Code of Best Practice is for those providing such treatments to agree to a common consensual age and thus provide a consistent approach to age restrictions of various tattooing and body art procedures within Stockton.


What Does The Code Require An Operator To Do?

When signing up to the Code Of Practice Operators agree to:

  • Comply with the suggested age restrictions
  • Implement a 'challenge 25' policy
  • Train all members of staff (existing and new) at least every three months
  • Request evidence of age and photographic ID to prove it
  • Maintain records of training and ensure all signed and dated
  • Ensure written consent is provided for each procedure carried out

The Trading Standards And Licensing Service will provide operators with the information they require to enable them to do this.


What Are The Age Limits?

The Code suggests the following age limits for procedures:


Age Restriction

Tattooing  undefined
Genital Piercing/Nipple Piercing  undefined
Branding, Scarification and Similar Procedures  undefined

Ear Piercing

(Consent of Parent Up To 16 Years Old)


Other Body Piercing

(Consent of Parent Or Guardian between 16 and 18)


Statutory Age Limits

Tattoo - means the insertion into the skin of any colouring material designed to leave a permanent mark.

Temptooing - Controversial type of tattoo, said to use ink which will rise to the top of the skin and vanish after three - five years because the needles do not breach the epidermis. Allegedly sold as a temporary tattoo, but evidence suggests they are permanent.

Prohibition of Tattooing of Minors - Tattooing Of Minors Act 1969 - It shall be a criminal offence to tattoo a person under the age of 18 except where the tattoo is performed for medical reasons by a qualified medical practitioner or by a person working under his direction, but it shall be a defence for a person charged to show that at the time the tattoo was performed he had reasonable cause to believe that the person tattooed was of or over the age of 18 and did in fact so believe.

Penalties - Any person committing such an offence shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £1000.00.

Body Piercing - Perforation to the skin and underlying tissue in order to create a small tunnel in the flesh in which jewellery of one kind or another is placed, includes nose, facial, lip and nipple piercing.

Cosmetic Body Art

Below are examples of permanent body art and includes both branding and cutting in order to produce scar tissue on the skin surface. The main reasons for choosing these types of body art appear to be for decoration.

Branding - A form of scarification usually achieved by burning the skin with heated metal.

Scarification - This is the incising or slashing of the skin. May be repeated many times to achieve deep and clearly visible marks/scars.

Beading - The insertion of small beads under the incised skin of the phallus, or other body parts.

Body piercing and cosmetic body art may be carried out on under 16's where a parent is present and written consent is provided and on 16-18 year olds where photographic identification is tendered; for clients aged 18 or older no age restrictions shall apply.

Applicable Offences in Relation to Body Piercing and Body Art

Where any of the above treatments are carried out it must be recognised that those carrying out the treatments are vulnerable to the following accusations of assault:

  • Common Assault
  • Actual Bodily Harm
  • Grievous Bodily Harm
  • Indecent Assault (touching female breasts, or male/female genitals without consent).

In the UK, females younger than 16 cannot give consent to nipple or genital piercing.


What Paperwork Will I Need To Keep?

The Code will require you to keep paperwork to evidence the fact that:

  • You and your staff are appropriately trained in the Code of Practice and its requirements.
  • You have obtained appropriate consent from all customers.
  • You have provided appropriate medical advice and obtained a signed declaration of understanding.
  • You maintain and complete a Refusals Register.

The Trading Standards and Licensing Service will provide you with electronic versions of appropriate documentation to allow you to do this.


What Are The Benefits Of Signing Up To The Code?

Customers will be able to ensure that they are choosing an operator who is reputable and meets a range of minimum standards.

Operators will be able to highlight that they are a responsible trader who complies with minimum standards and ensures that they allow their customer to make an informed choice before undertaking a procedure.

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