Brendan McCarthy: convicted of three counts of GBH for consensual body modifications he performed between 2012-2015
Brendan McCarthy: convicted of three counts of GBH for consensual body modifications he performed between 2012-2015
Brendan McCarthy severed the ear of a client at his Wolverhampton tattoo parlor, Dr. Evil’s Body Modification Emporiu

Tattooist Brendan McCarthy,  50, of Bushbury, Wolverhampton, has pleaded guilty to six charges of causing Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH),

Tattooist Brendan McCarthy, 50, of Bushbury, Wolverhampton, has pleaded guilty to three charges of causing Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) at the culmination of a two-year-long legal battle over whether or not a victim can ever consent to their own assault.

The body-modification specialist had initially pleaded not guilty of GBH in relation to procedures carried out at the request will of clients at his Wolverhampton tattoo parlor, Dr Evil’s Body Modification Emporium, between 2012-2015. The studio has since changed hands.

Tattooist Brendan McCarthy’s Two Year Legal Ordeal For Agreeing Cut Off Man’s Ear

McCarthy was granted bail after his first hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court back in September 2017, on the condition that he did not carry out any procedures involving the removal of body parts.

He had hoped the detailed consent forms signed by his clients would be enough to protect him from the legal consequences of his extreme body mods.

A petition by members of the body modification commuters raised over 14,000 signatures in support of Mr. Carthy, but in 2018 Judge Amjad Nawaz ruled that consent was not relevant to whether a crime had been carried out.

Brendan McCarthy appealed to the High Court, but three senior judges – including the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales – ruled that consent was not a defense to GBH under English law.

This outcome was not surprising given the history of ‘consensual’ assault cases in recent history.

1980s Video Nasty Panic Results In Convictions For 16 S&M Fans

In 1993, the notorious Spanner Case – or R. v Brown – resulted in a House of Lords ruling that consent was not a valid legal defense for wounding and actual bodily harm.

The ruling came six years after group of Manchester men were arrested as part of Operation Spanner, events set in motion when police obtained a VHS tape that they mistakenly believed depicted real-life scenes of torture and murder.

When the supposed murder victims came forward to tell police that the activities depicted had been staged with their consent, they were charged with aiding and abetting in their own assault.

In total sixteen men were found guilty of offenses in relation to Operation Spanner, with the majority of convictions for occasioning actual bodily harm. In 1990, the sixteen received sentences ranging from fines to prison terms of four and half years.

You Can’t Consent To Your Own Assault… Even You Really, Really Want To

The men immediately appealed their convictions, taking their cases to the Law Lords (at the time the highest court in England and Wales) and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but both courts ruled that the convictions should stand.

However, the Law Lords’ ruling remains controversial. At the time civil rights advocates accused the courts of homophobia, for pursuing the prosecution so aggressively in a case where consent had been so clearly established. While others, including tatooist Brendan McCarthy, are unaware that English law places limits on a person’s capacity to consent to actions performed against them.

Despite this, consent on the part of the victim has been used as grounds for successful defense in other cases involving the types body-modifications that some might find distasteful.

In 1996 a judge ruled that the wife of Alan Wilson had lawfully consented to his branding her on the buttocks with a hot knife, as a part of their consensual sadomasochistic relationship. As a result Mr. Wilson’s conviction for occasioning actual bodily harm was overturned and he was acquitted.

You Especially Can’t Consent To Someone Setting You On Fire

In the Alan Wilson case however, the activity had taken place in the privacy of the couple’s own home, and the court determined that it had not been extreme in nature, or likely to cause serious or long-term harm to the participants. For these reasons it was not considered a matter for criminal investigation.

In contrast to the R. v Wilson case, a 1999 case involving heterosexual couple who had also engaged in sadomasochistic activity resulting in actual bodily harm, did result in conviction for the male partner, despite the ‘consent’ of his female victim. In R. v Emmett, the defendant’s female partner had agreed that he could pour lighter fuel on her breasts and set them alight. The burns became infected, requiring hospital treatment. On a separate occasion, he tied a plastic bag over his partner’s head risking her suffocation.

The court determined that because these activities carried the risk of death or serious injury, Mr. Emmett’s conviction for occasioning actual bodily harm should be upheld.

Jail Term For Dr. Evil Brendan McCarthy?

Although Brendan McCarthy’s offenses took place in a tattoo parlor, not the bedroom the precedent established by R v. Brown and similar cases, made it almost impossible for his lawyers to successfully argue that his victims’ consent was grounds for acquittal.

The body modifications were carried out publicly, in his place of work. They were also not for the faint of heart.

Between 2012-2015 Brendan McCarthy sliced off the nipple off one man and removed the left ear of another. He also split the tongue of a female customer – procedures he carried out with neither anesthesia nor medical training.

Despite the good will of his supporters and others in the body modification community, Brendan McCarthy must now await sentencing, which Judge Amjad Nawaz has warned could involve a custodial term.

The current law exists to protect individuals from physical harm at the hands of others – whether they want that protection or not.


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