Artists Graham Ovenden has escaped prison after been found guilty of child sex offences (piereport)
Artist Graham Ovenden has escaped prison after being found guilty of historic child sex offences (piereport)

An internationally renowned artist found guilty of child sex offences has been given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Graham Ovenden, 70, was found guilty of six charges of indecency with a child and one count of indecent assault between 1972 and 1985 in April this year.

Upon sentencing at Plymouth Crown Court, Judge Graham Cottle told Ovenden: "There can be no doubt that at that time you had a sexual interest in children."

Ovenden was found guilty of abusing young models he used to pose for his photographs and paintings. He denied the charges, adding his pictures of children in various states of undress were not indecent and he had a "moral obligation" to capture them.

The judge said: "The girls had no understanding at that time of the true purpose behind what you were doing, a purpose that was undoubtedly sexual.

"There can be no doubt that at that time you had a sexual interest in children. You maintained it was an artistic interest in the female form. The jury disagreed. I believe their view was an entirely proper reflection of the attitude the general public would take."

Ovenden, of Barley Splatt near Bodmin Moor, denied all charges.

The judge said he had taken into account Ovenden's age, the severity of his crimes and the time the offences took place when sentencing.

He told Ovenden that one of the crimes he was convicted off - asking a girl to touch him while they were in a bath together - could now be considered as inciting a child to engage in a sexual act, which today carries a maximum jail sentence of 14 years.

However, the judge added he took into account the offences took place as long as 40 years ago, before newer laws to protect children were brought in.

Ovenden's work had featured in galleries all round the world. Following his conviction the Tate removed 34 of his artworks, some of which are of naked young girls.

Cottle added the artist, who studied under Sir Peter Blake, had suffered a "fall from grace" since his conviction.

He said: "You enjoyed a reputation as an eminent landscape artist. Though the quality of your work may remain undiminished, your personal reputation has been severely tarnished. Galleries that were pleased to display your work have taken down your work."

After leaving the court, Ovenden told reporters: "I have not the slightest intention of making an apology for crimes I have not committed."

Metropolitan Police Det Insp Paul Maddocks, said: "I would like to praise the victims who bravely gave harrowing evidence throughout this trial. I would also like to thank the prosecution counsel and Devon and Cornwall Crown Prosecution Service for supporting the Met's investigation.

"I am pleased that Ovenden has received a prison sentence, albeit suspended, to reflect that he abused a position of trust and committed sexual offences against young children.

"He has been convicted of the sexual abuse of children, this trial has not been about art. The pseudo-images shown to the jury depicted child sexual abuse - they have no artistic merit."