Cornwall

Graham Ovenden sex crimes: Artist gets suspended jail term

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Media captionGraham Ovenden was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years

Renowned Cornwall artist Graham Ovenden has been given a suspended sentence for indecency offences against young girls.

Ovenden, 70, was convicted of six counts of indecency and one of indecent assault, at Truro Crown Court in April.

He had denied the offences, which dated back about 40 years and occurred in London and Cornwall.

At Plymouth Crown Court, Judge Graham Cottle sentenced Ovenden to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

Reputation 'severely tarnished'

The judge said there was "no doubt" Ovenden had a sexual interest in children "at that time".

He said: "The girls involved in this indictment had no understanding at that time of the true purpose of what you were doing and that purpose was undoubtedly sexual."

He said Ovenden's strongest mitigation would have been to plead guilty, but instead he put his victims through the ordeal of a trial.

However, he added that sentencing the artist was a difficult exercise.

Judge Cottle said he had to take into account the gravity and impact of his crimes.

He also said he had to consider Ovenden's age, health and self-inflicted punishment, such as the damage to his reputation as an artist which had been "severely tarnished".

Leaving court, Ovenden told the BBC he was planning to appeal.

David Tucker, the NSPCC's associate head of policy, said: "The judge in this case has clearly found it difficult balancing the historical nature of these offences with the need to send out a strong message that sexual offences cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

"We would be concerned if the leniency shown here was followed in other cases."

Old-fashioned clothing

Ovenden, of Barley Splatt, near Bodmin Moor, has had work exhibited in galleries across the world.

He was described in court by prosecutor Ramsay Quaife as "a paedophile" who abused four children - now all adults - between 1972 and 1985 while they modelled for him.

The jury heard Ovenden's portraiture formed part of a ruse for abusing girls.

He had his victims dress in old-fashioned clothing before removing it and committing indecent acts, the court was told.

The artist denied abusing his subjects, admitting he had taken pictures of children - including those in various states of undress - but adding they were not indecent.

He was cleared on three counts of indecency and two of indecent assault.

Thirty-four prints by the artist were removed from the Tate Gallery's online collection following his conviction.

The gallery had described him as "an artist of note, whose work has been widely shown over more than 40 years".

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