TEENAGERS and adults in Huntingdonshire are at risk of catching potentially life-threatening diseases by using amateur tattooists who operate from home. Tattoo artist Steve Cutter, who works at Jewells Spellbound in Huntingdon, said he has seen a sharp r

TEENAGERS and adults in Huntingdonshire are at risk of catching potentially life-threatening diseases by using amateur tattooists who operate from home.

Tattoo artist Steve Cutter, who works at Jewells Spellbound in Huntingdon, said he has seen a sharp rise in the number of children and adults coming to him with 'illegal tattoos'.

Tattooing kits are readily available via the internet and, he says, the kits being regularly used in Huntingdonshire.

He said he is visited by three or four people a week asking him to fix the poor tattoos.

Mr Cutter told The Hunts Post: "There are a lot of tattooists operating illegally in Huntingdon and a few in St Neots. These scratchers, as they are known in the trade, have no regard for people's health and are putting lives at risk."

It is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 and tattoo premises have to be licensed and inspected. Breaking these laws could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

If a premise is not licensed then there is no guarantee that the equipment being used is clean and safe. Using unsterilized equipment can lead to diseases such as hepatitis and septicaemia.

Mr Cutter added: "It is absolutely soul destroying. How do you tell a 16 or 17-year-old or even an adult who should know better that their bad tattoo is the good news? The bad news is that they now need to go to hospital and have a blood test because they may have HIV or hepatica."

Mark Austin, owner of Jewells Spellbound in Market Hill, said: "Not only are these people scarred for life but they could also have shortened their life. One young girl came to us who had been on a drunken night out in St Neots and ended up at a house where someone tattooed her. It was just awful - they made a real mess."

On another occasion a mother and her 14-year-old child went into the shop for help after getting illegally tattooed.

Mr Cutter said he believes the number of underground tattooists is surging because of the increasing number of DIY tattoo kits available on the internet.

"It has always been happening but over the last few months it seems to be happening more and more. I put it down to the availability of tattoo kits on online auction sites. Anyone can pick one up for under £80 with a 20 minute DVD on how to do it.

"I have been tattooing for 15 years and I'm still learning so to think of someone picking it up from a short DVD is just ridiculous."

A spokesman for Huntingdonshire District Council said anyone with information about illegal tattooists should contact them on 01480 388010.

CONCERNED: Licensed tattooist, Steve Cutter (pictured) is concerned that kids and adults are being put at risk by using illegal tattooists.