Body modifier admits removing part of woman’s genitals, but unclear if against the law

A NSW body modifier has admitted removing parts of a woman’s genitals, but whether this is against the law is an issue for his trial, a court has been told.

Brendan Leigh Russell has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, female genital mutilation and grievous bodily harm with intent, relating to three separate women.

On Monday, crown prosecutor Chris Taylor told the New South Wales district court that Russell admitted performing a partial excision of a woman’s labia.

But whether that counted as an offence of law would be the triable issue, he said.

“By and large the complainant … consented to the excision of her labia by the accused, but you will see in the legislation that consent is no defence … so there is no issue regarding consent.”

The Central Coast tattooist who markets himself as BSlice DotCom is due to face a four-week judge-alone trial if it can be heard in person, his lawyer said.

Michael Mantaj indicated there would be an application to vacate the trial after the pre-trial hearing if proceedings had to be conducted remotely.

Both the crown and Mantaj had earlier indicated their concerns for a fair trial, given the complex factual and legal issues and detailed expert documents to be shown on Cisco’s WebEx system.

Judge Helen Syme said she had discretionary powers to approve in-court attendance but said vaccination status and Covid-19 negative tests would factor into that.

Russell, 40, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of a woman, under whose skin he allegedly implanted a plastic snowflake in early 2017.

When she complained of pain, Russell allegedly urged her to visit him instead of a hospital.

He also denies using a branding iron to mutilate another female customer’s genitals in 2015 or causing grievous bodily harm to a third woman who sought a “tummy tuck” at his Erina tattoo and body modification business in 2016.

Whether septicemia was present and caused the death of the woman to whom the manslaughter charge relates was another issue to be established beyond reasonable doubt, Russell’s defence submitted.

The crown said it would be calling upon at least 15 experts, including infectious disease specialists, four pathologists and pharmacologists to speak on the topic so the matter should be determined at trial and not before, as the defence was requesting.

US body modifier Howard Rollins, also known by his moniker Luna Cobra, was found not guilty in 2020 of assisting Russell in an allegedly botched labia removal in January 2015.

In that case, the trial judge couldn’t be satisfied Rollins was in the room, knew all the facts and circumstances, and had issued instructions to Russell excising the woman’s labia.

Russell’s pre-trial hearing continues.

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