HC Deb 20 April 1999 vol 329 c483W
Mr. Bob Russell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what regulations govern the minimum age at which a person can(a) be tattooed, (b) have their ears pierced and (c) have other parts of the body pierced. [80860]

Mr. Boateng

Tattooing of children under the age of 18 is an offence under the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969. There are no specific regulations setting a specific minimum age for other forms of body piercing. The question of what is a valid consent is governed by common law. Whether an offence has been caused therefore depends on the circumstances of each particular case. The degree of competence that can be exercised by children will depend in each case on the relative maturity of the child concerned, as well as upon his or her age. The Courts have held that if a person under the age of 18 is capable of understanding the nature of the act that is being done, he or she is capable of giving a valid consent to it unless Statute provides otherwise.

Other types of body piercing, however, are not necessarily subject to these provisions. For example, children under the age of 16 cannot consent to what would otherwise be an indecent assault; whether an indecent assault occurred would depend on the facts of the individual case. Any establishment offering certain types of body piercing would therefore need to satisfy themselves as to the age of their customer and that he/she was capable of giving a valid consent.

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