A Redhill man has been prosecuted by the borough council as an illegal tattooist or 'scratcher,' as they are known in the trade.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council took out its first such prosecution against David Lee Streeton, 25, of Observatory Walk.

He was found guilty in absentia by Redhill Magistrates Court on June 3 of carrying on a tattooing business from an unlicensed premises in contravention of Section 15(1)(a) and Section 16 (1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

He was fined £700, with a victim surcharge of £70.

Streeton’s illegal tattooing activities came to light following partnership working with Surrey Police.

Announcing the successful prosecution, James Durrant, borough council portfolio holder for Licensing and Enforcement, said: "We’re delighted our first prosecution of an unlicensed tattooist was successful.”

Coun Durrant said: “Illegal tattooists cause misery. Unpleasant skin and serious infections including hepatitis B, C and D, and HIV, can be passed on through their unhygienic tattooing practices. “Scratchers are also more likely to illegally tattoo under 18s and customers are unlikely to receive any aftercare.”

Coun Durrant said: "Our successful prosecution sends a strong message – we will track down these illegal tattooists and prosecute. “Anyone offering tattooing to the public must be registered with us. Anyone thinking about a tattoo should only visit a registered tattooist, working in a regulated studio. “We stringently inspect registered tattooists to make sure their premises, equipment, procedures and practices are hygienic, so customers are protected.”

But he added: "We believe there are many unregistered tattooists working in Reigate and Banstead.

“If you know of one, or have any information about one, please call our Environmental Health Business Support on 01737 276417. “You could save someone from a very dangerous and unpleasant experience."

Tattooists working in regulated studios are required to establish hygiene controls in respect of premises and fittings, equipment, procedures and practices, and have to pay a registration fee – part of which pays for the cost of an inspection by a trained officer working for Environmental Health. Registration costs are £172 per person and £401 per premises. The legal age for getting a tattoo is 18, but many under 18s have tattoos. These are more likely to be carried out by unregistered tattooists, with no verified hygienic premises, equipment, procedures and practices, so infections or viruses are more likely.