Artist Graham Ovenden avoids jail for child sex offences


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The Independent Culture

An internationally renowned artist from Cornwall who was found guilty of a string of sex charges against children has avoided prison.

Graham Ovenden, who studied under the so-called "Godfather of Pop-Art" Sir Peter Blake, received 12 months' imprisonment suspended for two years.

The 70-year-old was convicted by a jury in April of six charges of indecency with a child and one allegation of indecent assault relating to three girls. They acquitted him of two further indecent assaults.

The jury had earlier found Ovenden not guilty of three charges of indecent assault on the direction of the trial judge.

Ovenden, of The Garage, Barley Splatt near Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, denied all the charges relating to four children now all adults between 1972 and 1985.

Passing sentence at Plymouth Crown Court, Judge Graham Cottle said Ovenden was motivated by a sexual interest in children.

"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 told him.

"There can be no doubt that at that time you had a sexual interest in children."

The judge added: "You enjoyed a reputation as a very eminent landscape artist in particular.

"In the art world if your work may remain undiminished by your convictions your personal reputation has been severely tarnished.

"In addition galleries that were pleased to display your work have withdrawn your works from their displays."

The judge said he took into account the many references and letters written by Ovenden's supporters who spoke of his "kindness and generosity of spirit".

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

"Their victim impact statements make quite clear how they have been affected by this case," Judge Cottle said.

In suspending the sentence, the judge said he took into account Ovenden's age, the age of the offences and his "steep fall from grace and irretrievably-tarnished reputation".

Christopher Quinlan QC, defending, said Ovenden had suffered a blow to his reputation and some of his work had been removed from online display by the Tate.

"There has been a deal of publicity about these matters. Shame has been visited upon him."

Mr Quinlan said: "He does not pose any risk at all of re-offending. He is 70 and custody will have a significant impact upon him - more than a younger man."