POLICE have issued a warning about the emerging trend of tattoo parties after a nine-year-old child was branded with the permanent body art at a recent event.

Central Scotland Police said a number of youngsters under the age of 18 had illegally received tattoos at another party, with allegations that drink and drugs were also on the premises.

Health chiefs have raised concerns about the events, which are said to have become commonplace in the Falkirk area, and the risk of serious infection, including HIV and hepatitis C, that they pose.

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Sergeant Allyson Blair, of the Force Interventions, Intelligence and Information Bureau, said: “We would strongly advise anyone who is carrying out such acts to think of the potential consequences both in legal and criminal terms as well as health implications.”

No arrests have as yet been made in connection with the offences, a spokeswoman for the force added.

Party tattooers, known as “scratchers”, operate without the health and safety constraints placed on legitimate tattoo parlours and often conduct their business in kitchens using equipment bought from the internet.

Mary Benfell, owner of Heaven and Hell tattoo and body piercing parlour in Falkirk, said she had complained several times to Falkirk Council’s environmental health and licensing department about tattoo parties. She said several people had come into her parlour to have party tattoos repaired, but that no work could be carried out because they were under the age of 18.

Ms Benfell said: “These people generally work from home, have no training and haven’t been examined or passed by environmental health.

“We have to work to quite stringent conditions but these parties are held in someone’s back kitchen. It’s like a Tupperware party, but with tattoos, and it is not the most hygienic way of being tattooed, and it is also illegal when you are talking about underagers.

“These parties are pretty much an ongoing thing and one of the big concerns is that it is a fantastically easy way to contract hepatitis C, which I believe is quite bad in the Falkirk area.

“Eventually something nasty is going to happen at one of these parties and we will all be tarred with the same brush.”

Public health consultant Dr Henry Prempeh, of NHS Forth Valley, said the health risks posed by unlicensed tattooists could be severe.

He said: “Getting a tattoo can lead to serious infection if it is not done with clean equipment and under safe conditions by a properly trained tattoo artist.

“The risks increase significantly if tattooing is carried out in premises that are not fit for purpose and regularly maintained.

“Typical symptoms of a local bacterial infection are redness, swelling, warmth and pain. In some individuals these infections may become complicated and pose a serious threat to health.

“The use of inadequately sterilised equipment or contaminated pigments can also result in blood borne infections, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, which are spread by infected blood entering another person’s bloodstream.

“It’s important to remember, however, that blood doesn’t have to be visible on an instrument or needle for infection to be transmitted and these infections may not cause any early symptoms so might not be recognised right away.”

Further advice from the health authority states that any tattoo artist should have a good personal hygiene and wear clean clothing and gloves, and not reuse needles.

No artist should smoke when tattooing, given the risk of transferring bacteria from the artist’s mouth via fingers to the client, the advice added.