Tyne & Wear

Forger who sold 'pitman painter' fakes jailed

Norman Cornish
Image caption Norman Cornish died in 2014

A fraudster destabilised the international art market by selling forged works of so-called "pitman painter" Norman Cornish, a court heard.

Richard Pearson, 56, from Sunderland, passed off 14 drawings and pictures to a gallery in Northumberland, leaving it more than £50,000 out of pocket.

He admitted fraud and forgery charges at Newcastle Crown Court and was jailed for three years and seven months.

Cornish was known for his paintings of industrial life in the North East.

The court was told Pearson was caught out after he made a "school boy error" when he used post-decimalisation prices on a fake receipt he claimed was from the 1960s.

Prosecutor Mark Giuliani said: "What was instantly and readily apparent was rather than being in pounds, shillings and pence it was in decimal pounds and pence."

The telephone number he used was also too long to be real.

'Convincing fakes'

Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors, who the gallery in Corbridge has since had to refund.

Previously Pearson pleaded guilty to nine charges of fraud, two of forgery and two of using a false instrument with intent between December 2011 and February 2014.

Jailing him, Judge Edward Bindloss said the fakes were "convincing" and had caused confidence in the art market to diminish.

The family of Mr Cornish were present in court and in a pre-prepared statement said they hoped the conviction and the destruction of the fakes would restore confidence within the market.

Paul Currer, defending, said Pearson wanted to apologise for his behaviour and would pay back the money through a fleet of cars he gained from an inheritance.

Prosecutors said they would use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the money he owed.

Cornish, who died in August 2014, was a former miner who learned his craft at an art course run for pitmen at Spennymoor Settlement in County Durham.

His works have sold for five-figure sums.

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