...but initially, at least, probably not the one you were thinking of:
The furious mum of a 14-year-old girl tattooed by an unlicensed amateur shopped him to police.In a story fraught with interesting comparisons, an untrained tattoo artist in Gloucestershire has been fined under the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 (so much for this being a recent phenomenon).
The court was told that the girl 'pestered' the 23-year-old man into giving her a £20 tattoo 'in memory of her grandfather', telling him halfway through that she was sixteen years old.
He admitted not asking her age but assumed she was 18.As you'd expect from an inexperienced amateur who purchased his needles and ink on ebay, the tattooist didn't ask to see any proof of her age before starting work.
After that, he had no option but to plead guilty, of course, particularly as she told him she was sixteen; it is illegal to tattoo anyone under eighteen except for medical reasons.
It's not the first case of its kind, and will certainly not be the last, but it does raise the problematical question of girls who appear much older than they are. In a case some years ago, a tattooist defended himself after inking a fifteen-year-old:
He said: “What was she doing here at 2.30pm with £100 in her pocket? We had every reason to believe that she was over the age of 20. She did not look under 18.With cosmetics and adult clothes, some fourteen-year-old girls can easily pass for late teens or even early twenties. I have even observed, on a school trip, a carefully made up and coiffured schoolgirl being mistaken for the accompanying teacher.
Which leads me to an unpleasant but relevant point. In a recent Channel 4 programme about child soldiers, the narrator explained something which may shed additional light on a recent spate of court cases in the UK.
Few people in Afghanistan, he said, know for certain their exact age. A child's stage of development is judged entirely on appearance; for boys, this means that facial hair proves they are old enough to be soldiers, even if, by our standards, they are barely above primary school age. The programme naturally did not concern itself with girls, but one assumes the same criteria apply.
If that attitude extends beyond the borders of Afghanistan and accompanies immigrants to the UK, it presents us with the problem of a sector of society for whom our child protection legislation may well be effectively meaningless.
Leaving aside for the moment the appalling crimes perpetrated against teenage girls in recent years and looking at the broader picture, how do you explain the age of consent to someone who has no concept of chronological age?