Artist Ovenden jailed for child sex offences

LONDON Wed Oct 9, 2013 8:59pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - British artist Graham Ovenden was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Wednesday for sexually abusing children after appeals judges ruled a 12-month suspended jail term was too lenient.

The 70-year-old, whose major works featuring young girls have been exhibited around the world, was convicted in April of six charges of indecency and one of indecent assault relating to three girls who posed for him between 1975 and 1985.

He received a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, from Plymouth Crown Court in June but Attorney General Dominic Grieve referred the case for appeal.

Court of Appeal judges on Wednesday quashed the suspended sentence and jailed the painter for 27 months, rejecting his argument that his interest in young girls was artistic and not sexual and refusing to allow him to appeal the conviction.

"Ovenden committed terrible sexual offences against vulnerable girls and abused his position of trust," Grieve wrote on his Twitter account. "Sexual crimes whether committed years ago or recently should be punished appropriately. Today the court sent a clear message."

Ovenden's images of children have triggered several legal actions over the years but his work was highly regarded in the art world and displayed in galleries including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

After his conviction in April, Britain's Tate gallery removed more than 30 Ovenden prints from its online collection, including images of naked and semi-naked young girls.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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