Teen's piercing sparks consent row

KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012

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An Invercargill father is angry his 14-year-old daughter had her belly-button pierced by a city tattooist without parental permission, but the business owner says the girl led him to believe she did have permission.

The man said his daughter went to Large as Life Tattoos on a teacher-only day in August. When asked if she had her parents' permission, she said yes, so they pierced her belly-button, he said.

The father found out about the piercing at the weekend and said he confronted the owner about it.

"It is about trying to stop the store from doing it and protecting other parents and other children from the situation. It is too easy."

Health Ministry guidelines say those under the age of 16 should have a parent or guardian's permission for body piercings or tattoos.

Large as Life Tattoos owner Peter Haggart said he initially told the 14-year-old girl he could not do the piercing without parental permission. The girl soon returned and told him her mother was unable to talk because she was at work, but had sent a text message with her permission, which she showed to him, Mr Haggart said.

He had guidelines provided by the council that say "skin piercing" procedures should not be carried out on people under 16 years without the written permission of a parent or guardian.

The Government did not make legislation around this, instead it was left to local authorities to govern, he said.

This left a "rather large grey area", he said.

They had to take people at face value, to a degree, especially younger ones who did not have identification, Mr Haggart said.

"It is quite a difficult situation, from my point of view.

"You either trust no-one or you rely on their honesty . . . I don't intend for these things to happen."

When asked whether he believed there should be a blanket rule for the whole country, rather than individual council bylaws, Mr Haggart said there should be.

"It would take away the grey areas and be so much easier for everybody," he said.

When asked whether it would be better for those under 16 to be accompanied by a parent, he said not everyone was able to do that either.

They had discussed keeping a register and having forms, but 14- to 15-year-olds "knew what they were doing".

If the girl had wanted a more permanent procedure, he would not have done it, he said.

The 14-year-old girl's father said he did not believe a note was adequate parental consent, because anyone could write a note.

BYLAW PENDING
Councils in some areas of New Zealand have introduced bylaws relating to tattoos and body piercing.

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Invercargill City Council environmental health manager John Youngson said a review of the environmental health section, which was still being completed, had identified the need to consider a bylaw.

The council would start compiling a list of all tattooists and body piercers in the city, and work on the bylaw would begin in the new year.

A minimum age for procedures was something the council would research, he said.

- The Southland Times

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