27.05.2020 | By KM Legal

Body modifier Howard Rollins not guilty of helping to mutilate woman's labia with 'branding iron'

On 26 May 2020 Howard Rollins was found Not Guilty of aiding and abetting a Central Coast based "body modifier" in the removal of the labia minora of an adult female complainant.

There was never any suggestion by the Prosecution that our client played a part in the physical procedure. The complainant consented to the procedure and had engaged in several other voluntary body modifications previously.

Our client had serious concerns about this "body modifier" and reported his conduct to the police and other agencies on numerous occasions prior to this procedure. Those agencies took no action at the time. Despite our clients efforts to blow the whistle and expose this behaviour, he was charged.

We are so pleased we were able to achieve this result for him after a very difficult few years. Lauren MacDougall of this office worked with Margaret Cunneen SC to achieve this outcome.

The Daily Telegraph published the following article about the case:

World-renowned body modifier Howard Rollins - better known as Luna Cobra - has been acquitted of helping another modifier mutilate a woman's genitalia with a 'branding iron' in 2015.

A famed eyeball tattoo artist is relieved he was cleared of helping to mutilate a woman's genitals, but the American says he's disappointed he had to endure the stigma of such a heinous crime for years.

Howard Rollin's trial heard stomach-churning evidence of body parts in jars, the smell of burning flesh under a branding iron and an "underground cult" of body modification.

Rollins, better known as Luna Cobra, was accused of coaching another prominent modifier Brendan Russell while he performed an illegal labia "excision" on a woman using a cauterising tool five years ago.

Russell - better known as BSlice - has pleaded not guilty to the mutilation at a Newcastle parlour in January 2015, and will face trial later this year.

Rollins pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the mutilation and faced a judge alone trial this month.

On Tuesday Judge Ian Bourke found the 42-year-old American not guilty, saying "there were a number of inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence, some of them significant."

The judge said it was highly probable Rollins coached Russell through the surgery, but he couldn't ignore the woman's possible motive to frame him after she was blacklisted from the industry.

During the trial the woman said Rollins instructed BSlice to "cut and cauterise" as he burned off her labia minora during explosive and contradictory evidence.

"I know my vagina like the back of my hand (Rollins) was there, in the flesh, in between my legs next to Brendan, injecting me and burning away my labia," the woman told the court.

But defence barrister Margaret Cunneen SC said: "we only have the word of a liar - a proven liar - to implicate Howard Rollins."

The complainant later handed a jar containing her labia to police saying the men used a "branding iron" to do the operation.

But when asked if she'd smelled burning flesh the complainant said no, adding: "my head's not in my vagina".

Judge Bourke said the woman was either being untruthful or couldn't remember a smell due to the effects of the valium she was given.

The woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, told the court body modification was like an "underground cult" and she was eventually excluded from the community.

One of Russell's former employees told the court the woman kept pressing Russell to fix her labia for a year, until he banned her from getting any further procedures.

The woman told the worker: "you have ruined my whole life today. Body modifications is a huge part of my life. This is terribly unfair, you have crushed my passion," the court heard.

Witnesses said over a year the complainant had paid a small fortune on many more body modifications, yet testified she never went back for another procedure.

Another customer who gave evidence felt Rollins had been "set up" for Russell's alleged crime, and Judge Bourke said the complainant had a "possible motive to wrongly or falsely" implicate him.

Rollins' solicitor Lauren MacDougall said for two years her client's reputation has been tainted by allegations of a crime that parliament enacted to target the traditional genital mutilation of girls aged under 15.

"The irony is that long before he was charged it was Mr Rollins who made overtures to law enforcement authorities about the need for better regulation of the body modification industry," she told The Daily Telegraph outside court.

In August Rollins will apply for the Crown to pay his legal fees, arguing it was not reasonable for the prosecution to be brought against him in the first place.

One of Russell's former employees told the court she overheard Rollins warn he was "taking things too far" during a telephone fight months after the complainant's procedure.

"He is going to ruin the whole mod industry by taking these risks. He will end up in jail one day," Rollins allegedly said.

Rollins says he blew the whistle on Russell in 2016, contacting health authorities and even police with the help of another tattooist.

The pair were worried, the court heard, that someone may die.