‘I have lost everything’

Court action: James Woods from Blackpool Body Piercing Clinic on Springfield Road
Court action: James Woods from Blackpool Body Piercing Clinic on Springfield Road
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The owner of a Blackpool body piercing clinic has admitted a raft of health and safety offences.

James Woods pleaded guilty to five offences before a judge at Preston Crown Court and will be sentenced in November.

Health chiefs urged clients of the Blackpool Body Piercing Clinic in Springfield Road to get in touch with their doctors after concerns were raised last October.

Health and safety inspectors who visited the premises found there was no electricity which meant equipment could not be sterilised.

Mr Woods, 48, of Park Road, Blackpool, initially denied eight offences and elected for a trial at Crown Court.

But he changed his plea to guilty in relation to five offences, and the prosecution agreed three other offences, which he denied, would be allowed to lie on the file meaning no further action will be taken.

Woods is due to be sentenced on November 7.

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for public safety and enforcement on Blackpool Council, said: “The behaviour of Mr Woods and the irresponsible manner in which he continued to carry out body piercing without electricity in his premises, therefore being unable to use the recommended autoclave sterilising device and putting customer safety at risk, sparked a significant public health alert.

“As a result, Public Health England, in the interests of public safety, had to contact the customers who had been pierced during the period he was without electricity to advise them to visit their local health services for a blood test.

“This would undoubtedly have been extremely distressing for those involved.

“When this public health concern was highlighted publicly, Mr Woods continued to protest his innocence and, as a result, some of his customers felt it was not necessary to come forward for testing.

“He has now pleaded guilty to a number of health and safety offences and further charges are pending.

“While we do not believe there is any reason to be alarmed we would urge anyone who did not get a precautionary blood test and received a notification from Public Health England at the time, to do so.

“We would also urge consumers to take responsibility for their own health and ensure they are fully informed of all the safety information relating to piercing before they go-ahead.”

But Mr Woods was today adamant he did not put any of his clients’ health at risk, and said the charges he had admitted were lesser offences.

These include offences relating to his electricity supply, failing to ensure waste materials were in suitable receptacles, failing to ensure the workplace was organised to allow people to circulate, failing to provide suitable washing facilities, and failing to ensure the surface of every traffic route was kept free from obstructions.

Charges that instruments and jewellery used in body piercing “were not cleaned, decontaminated and sterilised as appropriate”, that there was dirt and refuse on the floor, and that he failed to discharge his duty by not having hot water for hand washing, were left on the file.

Mr Woods said: “I only admitted the lesser charges because of the pressure put on me, but I categorically deny putting anybody’s health at risk.

“I have lost everything as a result– my shop which I put £20,000 into, my home because I lived above the shop, and my reputation.”

He said he had been sterilising his equipment before he went to work, and other equipment was disposable.

But one client who had to go for a blood test after having a piercing in her ear carried out at the Blackpool Body Piercing Clinic, today recalled her fears following the health alert.

The 24-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I remember going for my appointment and the place was in darkness but he said they had had a power cut.

“I had been to him years ago for a piercing, so I thought it would be ok.

“I never thought I would be getting a letter telling me to go for a blood test.

“I thought I could have HIV or something.

“I went to my GP and was really worried. You pray there is nothing wrong, but there is always a chance. Thankfully when my results came back they were fine.”

When the offences came to light Blackpool Council and Public Health England urged people to contact their 
doctors amid fears they may be at risk of infection because without power, a steriliser could not be used on the premises.

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said it did not make financial sense to pursue prosecution on the charges Mr Woods had denied because the judge had indicated it would make no difference to the sentence Mr Woods will receive.