A Basingstoke tattoo artist couple has launched a campaign to help people remove hate tattoos from their bodies for free.

Hayley Allen and Richard De’Ath who work from their tattoo studio in Cliddesden said they want to help people who have got hate tattoos by mistake and would like to get rid of them.

“It is a controversial subject, because some people may feel that if people have done that to their body, they should perhaps live with that mistake. But that's not how we feel,” Hayley said.

“I know that people's opinions can be quite strong with regards to this. And I think everybody's entitled to a chance to make amends for their mistakes. So, we decided that we were going to open the campaign to help people to get rid of any tattoos that encourage hate, antisemitic, racist, sexist, homophobic, and anything like that.”

Hayley has been a tattoo artist for 18 years, while Richard has also trained in tattoo removal recently.

The couple said they have been contacted before about removing hate tattoos and decided to offer it as an opportunity for people who have made such kinds of mistakes.

Hayley was recently contacted by a man who wanted to remove an old Nazi tattoo from his body.

“He was a very old guy, ex-military. So that's what kind of got us thinking about it,” Hayley said.

“Previously, I worked for a clinic in Southampton where I removed a tattoo from a black patient. It wasn't a hate tattoo, but it was a series of letters and numbers and it was actually a form of branding that he had in his country in Africa.

“The difficulty in treating people who have a darker skin tone is when you're popping a laser on it, it can actually cause a much higher risk of scarring. So I had to explain this to my patients. But it didn't matter because they didn’t care about the scarring. They wanted this branding removed.

“You would never even think that somebody would have something so awful done to them to mark them as an item, and not as a person. That was something that stuck with me back then and I've never forgotten it even after 10 years.”

Hayley and Richard are also offering tattoo removal services for people with radiotherapy tattoos.

“People who have to undergo radiation therapy for cancer get pinprick little tattoos – the teeny tiny ones. I already remove those for free for people that don’t wish to have them,” Hayley said.

“To be honest, quite a few people do like to keep them as a marking of their recovery. But we just thought we'd start this campaign to help people who do want to remove them. It means a lot to us.”

Hayley also has a word of warning for people who buy cheap laser equipment from the internet.

“[The tattoo sector] is so unregulated that people are actually buying lasers from China and just doing it themselves, which is a high-risk treatment.

“When I first started my career, it was only doctors who did it. Then it went on to nurses and then we were trained. We have got the medical class lasers from the Lynton Academy. Training has all been done with the Lynton Academy which is the country's leading laser training.”