HUNTER INK: Studios feel the heat from war on bikies

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NEW laws regulating tattoo parlours are punishing legitimate businesses while doing little to crack down on bikies, Newcastle tattooists say.

Since October last year, tattoo artists and operators have been required to get licences in a bid to crack down on organised crime.

A licence costs $699 for an artist and $2094 for an operator.

They require an individual to be fingerprinted and have their criminal background checked.

Newcastle Tattoo Studio owner Craig Nosworthy doesn’t think the rules are fair. “Why are we all paying the government to get rid of bikies out of tattoo shops?” he asked.

“We had to sign all this stuff saying we waive our rights – they can kick the doors down any time they choose. They’ve got no idea what they’re doing.”

Brad Bako from Fat Ink Tattoo said it was good something was being done to get rid of crime in the industry, but it wasn’t being done in the right way.

Bikie issues were known to exist at certain tattoo businesses situated outside Newcastle CBD and he was interested to see if they got approved.

“Licences are a good thing and everyone has got a number,” he said. “We need to keep track of who is tattooing.”

Mr Bako thought a more important focus should be banning the online sale of DIY tattooing kits.

Another tattoo artist, who didn’t want to be named, said he thought licensing should have a purpose – such as requiring the artist to do a contamination course.

A NSW Fair Trading spokeswoman said the laws were necessary because the strong links between the tattoo industry and outlaw motorcycle gangs needed to be broken.

“For this reason tattoo parlours have been the target of violence and malicious damage such as drive-by shootings, fire-bombings and arson,” she said.

“Police are also aware of numerous incidents where members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have stood over, threatened and attempted to extort money from owners of tattoo studios who are unaffiliated with bikies and only interested in carrying on their small business.

“There is also a real risk that tattoo parlours are used by bikies to launder the proceeds of crime.”

Only one studio had received its licence in the Newcastle region as of late January. Another 22 were still pending.

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