ROCKHAMPTON tattooist Bernie Bartley was convicted of sexually assaulting a girl he was tattooing about 10 years ago and believes this could be the reason why he and his wife Veronica were denied tattooing licences.
It was revealed at a hearing at a civil tribunal in Brisbane yesterday that Mr Bartley was convicted of sexually touching a girl - a minor - while he was tattooing her.
Mr and Mrs Bartley have had their applications to tattoo and operate their Gallery Ink tattoo parlour rejected and have appealed this decision in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The tribunal has to decide whether the Police Commissioner made the right decision when it determined Mr Bartley was not a fit person to hold a tattoo licence and that it was not in the public interest to grant him, or Mrs Bartley, licences.
A reference letter from Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow in support of Mrs Bartley was handed up as part of her case.
Mrs Bartley's barrister, Joe Crowley, argued Mrs Bartley was a person of good character and that any rejection should have been based on the likelihood of whether any criminal activity would occur from the tattoo business.
He also said Mr Bartley had continued tattooing for about 10 years since his conviction, for which he was sentenced to a three-month suspended jail term, and that he had not committed another offence since, except for one minor public nuisance incident.
Mr Bartley, who represented himself, said he made a mistake 10 years ago and that he had moved on.
"After that I tried to change my ways. It was a bad thing I done," he said.
Mr Bartley said he had rehabilitated through going to church and said it was unfair they got pulled into bikie laws which were introduced to address problems on the Gold Coast.
"And now we've been dragged into it on the side," he said. "I can't see how that's fair."
The Police Commissioner's barrister, Michael Nicolson argued that Mr Bartley's previous conviction was serious and that it happened while he was tattooing.
He also quizzed Mrs Bartley, who gave evidence, on whether Gallery Ink was her business or if she and her husband owned it together.
He asked whether she applied for the operator's licence instead of her husband to try to get around the strict laws, which she denied.
Mrs Bartley said legally she owned the business for about five years, but that Mr Bartley had significant input because he was her husband.
Mr and Mrs Bartley were given the opportunity to ask for a non-publication order, which would have prevented media from naming or identifying them.
But Mrs Bartley said they had nothing to hide and that they were happy to be named.
The tribunal members have reserved their decision and will announce their findings at a later date.
Bartleys remain hopeful in 'guinea pig' case
UP UNTIL Monday, Veronica and Bernie Bartley thought their tattoo licences had been rejected because of their association with alleged former Rebels bikies.
But on Monday they received documents that showed their tattoo licences had been rejected because of Mr Bartley's past criminal conviction.
Mr and Mrs Bartley said they knew former Rebels bikie members and thought this was why the Police Commissioner rejected their application to be granted a licence to tattoo and operate Gallery Ink tattoo parlour.
They have appealed this decision, and following a hearing at the Queensland Civil and Administrative tribunal on Wednesday, Mrs Bartley said they were hopeful.
"It was a good hearing," she said. "I think it was pretty fair."
The Bartleys' is the first case related to tattoo parlours to go through the appeal stage in Queensland, and the couple said they felt like it was a test case.
"We do feel like it's a guinea pig," Mrs Bartley said.
She said she understood where the police were coming from, but did not understand why they were allowed to have a secondhand shop in Rockhampton but not a tattoo parlour.
One of the legal reasons they were rejected was because it was not in the public interest for them to have a tattoo shop.
"We got the secondhand shop. Is it going to be in the public interest that Bernie is my partner in that?" she said.
- APN NEWSDESK
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