Brendan McCarthy, 50, who ran Dr Evil's Body Modification Emporium in Wolverhampton changed his pleas to guilty today after a two-year legal saga in which he claimed the consent of his customers provided him with a lawful defence
A tattoo artist who called himself 'Dr Evil' has admitted causing grievous bodily harm to three customers by carrying out a tongue-splitting procedure and removing an ear and a nipple.
Brendan McCarthy, who ran Dr Evil's Body Modification Emporium in Wolverhampton changed his pleas to guilty today after a two-year legal saga in which he claimed the consent of his customers provided him with a lawful defence.
The 50-year-old, from Bushbury, Wolverhampton, who was bailed to appear for sentencing on March 21, carried out the ear removal at his studio in 2015 without using anaesthetic.
He previously split a woman's tongue with a scalpel and removed a third customer's nipple.
The tattooist had spent two years arguing his case, contending at the Court of Appeal that the procedures should be regarded as lawful to protect the 'personal autonomy' of his customers.
Judge Amjad Nawaz ruled that the registered tattooist could not use his clients' written permission as a defence after considering precedent set by previous prosecutions, including one in which a husband branded his wife's buttocks with a hot knife.
McCarthy first appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court in 2017, when he denied four counts of wounding and inflicting grievous bodily harm and two of causing it.
McCarthy then took his case to the Court of Appeal, contending that the procedures should be regarded as lawful to protect the 'personal autonomy' of his customers.
But three judges at the Court of Appeal, including the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, threw out McCarthy's appeal.
In their 12-page ruling, the appeal court judges - who noted that McCarthy had divided a customer's tongue 'to produce an effect similar to that enjoyed by reptiles' - said the procedures were not comparable to tattoos and piercings.
Although they accepted evidence that the ear removal had been done quite well, the judges said it was not in the public interest that a person could wound another for no good reason.
Rejecting the defence submissions, the ruling stated: 'The case advanced by the appellant is that the procedures he conducted, albeit that they caused really serious harm, should be immunised from the criminal law of assault, just as surgical procedures performed by medical practitioners and those who take part in properly organised boxing matches attract protection.
The 50-year-old, from Bushbury, Wolverhampton, who was bailed to appear for sentencing on March 21, carried out the ear removal at his studio in 2015 without using anaesthetic at his Dr Evil's Body Modification Emporium, pictured above
'There is, to our minds, no proper analogy between body modification, which involves the removal of parts of the body or mutilation as seen in tongue-splitting, and tattooing, piercing or other body adornment.
'What the defendant undertook for reward in this case was a series of medical procedures for no medical reason.
'Those seeking body modification of the sort we are concerned with in this appeal invited the appellant to perform irreversible surgery without anaesthetic with profound long-term consequences.
'The fact that a desire to have an ear or nipple removed or tongue split is incomprehensible to most, may not be sufficient in itself to raise the question whether those who seek to do so might be in need of a mental health assessment.
The 'menu' at Mr McCarthy's former salon includes 'tongue splits', 'ear pointing' and 'magnetic implants'
'The personal autonomy of his customers does not provide the appellant with a justification for removing body modification from the ambit of the law of assault.'
An online petition which attracted 13,000 signatures was set up in 2017 to support the 'knowledgable, skilful and hygienic' body piercer, who was refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The petition, urging members of the body modification community to stand together, stated: 'Please sign to show your support for Mac and for the right to express ourselves in whatever modified manner we wish in a safe environment.
'Because Barbie & Ken aren't everyone's idea of beautiful.'
Tongue splitting procedure shared on 'Dr Evil's website
The practice of extreme body modification has previously existed in a legal limbo but today's ruling has now set a legal precedent meaning practitioners could face criminal charges
Before McCarthy entered his pleas, prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC told Judge Nawaz: 'Your Honour is familiar with the history of the case - avenues of appeal having been exhausted.'
Defence counsel Andrew Smith QC said he would be arguing that McCarthy should not be jailed given the 'particular facts' of the case.
Adjourning the case for the preparation of a pre-sentence report, Judge Nawaz told McCarthy, who ran premises in nearby Princess Alley, that the granting of bail did not indicate what form of sentence would be passed.
The judge said: 'These are serious matters. Ordinarily a sentence of custody would be inevitable but there are differences in this case.'
McCarthy, who was bailed with a condition that he does not undertake surgical procedures, will be sentenced on March 21.
Dr Samantha Pegg: 'Law out of step with modern culture'
Dr Samantha Pegg, law lecturer at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University, and expert on the legality of body modification procedures, said: 'The conviction of Brendan McCarthy for performing several body modification procedures demonstrates that the law is now significantly out of step with modern culture.
'The Court of Appeal have ruled that the consent of an individual to body modifications performed by a practitioner who has no medical training or qualifications provides no defence if serious bodily harm is caused.
'Tattooing, piercing and bodily enhancements analogous to these procedures are lawful. It is unclear from the decision of the Court of Appeal which other modifications the law will tolerate.
'As body modifications continue to grow in popularity criminalising those who perform these procedures, typically in piercing and tattoo studios regulated for health and safety, is counterproductive. Driving the industry underground may lead to procedures being performed in less hygienic conditions.
'This conviction must prompt an informed debate about how modifications should be regulated. The Court of Appeal were oblivious to the popularity of these procedures and have seriously constrained our right to deal with our own bodies as we see fit.'