A tattooist who called himself “Dr Evil” sliced off an ear and a nipple from paying customers, as well as splitting another’s tongue so it forked like a snake.
Brendan McCarthy, 50, carried out the surgery without anaesthetic at his tattoo parlour, despite having no medical qualifications.
The 50-year-old – who ran Dr Evil’s Body Modification Emporium in Wolverhampton – spent two years battling the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) through the courts to avoid a conviction for gross bodily harm.
Because his customers, who were part of the fringe “body modification” sub-culture, had given their consent to the procedures he argued he could not be prosecuted.
But on Tuesday he was forced to abandon his legal challenge after the Court of Appeal rejected his final appeal.
He has now pleaded guilty to three counts of causing grievous bodily harm.
Mr McCarthy was famous throughout the body modification community and a petition set up to support him has attracted 13,000 signatures online.
But judges took a dim view of his practices.
Although they accepted evidence that the ear removal had been done relatively proficiently, they said it was not in the public interest that a person could wound another without a good reason.
Mr McCarthy argued extreme body modification 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 ruling said.
The customers who came to the tattoo artist’s studio in Wolverhampton wanted him to perform “perform irreversible surgery without anaesthetic with profound long-term consequences”.
Just because most people would find a desire to have an ear or nipple removed or a tongue split with a scalpel “incomprehensible” did not necessarily mean all body modifiers were mentally ill, the ruling cautioned.
Nevertheless, the “personal autonomy” of his customers did not mean Mr McCarthy was free to effectively assault them, the judges concluded.
The online petition said broader society was discriminating against a sub-culture which simply had a different beauty standard.
“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,” it states.
“Because Barbie & Ken aren’t everyone’s idea of beautiful.”
Rhiannon Jones, from the CPS, said she was not seeking to curtail freedom of expression but protect the public.
Their investigation began after people who had seen pictures of Mr McCarthy removing the ear online raised the alarm.
“This prosecution was not brought to curtail individual choice or freedom of self-expression but because Mr McCarthy, who was licensed to carry out tattooing and body piercing, was performing what were significant surgical procedures in a tattoo studio in Wolverhampton,” she said.
“This case confirms the existing law that surgical procedures must be carried out by properly trained, qualified and regulated surgeons or health care professionals.”
Anyone considering carrying out body modification should read the Court of Appeal’s judgement, Ms Jones added.