British artist Graham Ovenden gets suspended sentence

PLYMOUTH, England, June 5 (UPI) -- British artist Graham Ovenden, whose work has sometimes been called pornographic, got a suspended sentence Tuesday for child molestation.

Judge Graham Cottle had harsh words for Ovenden's conduct, The Guardian reported. But he gave the 70-year-old artist a sentence of one year and then suspended it, citing Ovenden's age and health.


Cottle said the girls, some as young as 6, who were photographed by Ovenden did not realize at the time they had "been taken advantage of as innocent young children by a man who was pursing his sexual interest."

"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," Cottle said. "The jury disagreed. I believe their view was an entirely proper reflection of the attitude the general public would take."

Ovenden is both a painter and photographer. He spent years building Barley Splatt, a neo-Gothic mansion on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall that was still unfinished when he sold it in 2008.

His work has long been controversial. In 1992, the U.S. Justice Department argued his book, "States of Grace," included sexually explicit images of children but gave up an effort to block it from importation.


The Tate Gallery removed Ovenden images from online exhibit in 2009. In 2010, a British judge dismissed charges of creating "indecent" images.

After the sentencing, Ovenden denied any wrongdoing. He said he would not apologize to his subjects -- or victims.

"Why should I apologize for something I haven't done?" he asked.

Siobhan Pyburn, an advocate for victims of sexual abuse and founder of The Phoenix Project, said Ovenden should have been sent to prison, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"In many historic child abuse cases offenders are getting off simply because of their age," she said.

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