Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ovenden guilty on child sex charges

Artist Graham Ovenden has been convicted of a string of sex offences against children

An internationally renowned artist has been found guilty of a string of sex offences against children.

Graham Ovenden, who studied under the so-called "Godfather of Pop-Art" Sir Peter Blake, was not in court to see the jury forewoman return the verdicts having been taken ill.

A jury of seven men and five women at Truro Crown Court found Ovenden guilty of six charges of indecency with a child and one allegation of indecent assault.

They acquitted him of two indecent assaults. The jury earlier found Ovenden not guilty of three charges of indecent assault on the direction of Judge Graham Cottle.

Ovenden, of Barley Splatt, near Bodmin Moor, north Cornwall, denied all the charges relating to four children - now all adults - between 1972 and 1985. The incidents took place at his former home in Hounslow, west London, as well as at his current address, where he had a studio.

Judge Graham Cottle adjourned sentence until a date to be fixed but said the hearing would take place at Plymouth Crown Court. Ovenden was released on bail. He was not in court having been taken ill over the weekend.

Christopher Quinlan QC, defending, told the judge that Ovenden was resting at home having received treatment at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

The 70-year-old's artwork - much celebrated in galleries across the world at the height of his commercial popularity - includes portraits of nude children. But he denied indecency, disputing claims that he had a sexual interest in children and allegations by four witnesses that he abused them as young models.

Ovenden spoke frankly from the witness box, quoting biblical and literary works in explaining his use of naked children as part of his "state of grace" body of work. He also described the "neuroses" of the prosecutor, and the "witch-hunt" that plagued the art world from those who disagreed with the naked child form.

Prosecutor Ramsay Quaife told the court: "What we (the Crown Prosecution Service) say is that Mr Ovenden is a paedophile, that is a sexual abuser of children. In this case we say the target of his abuse was young girls. All four of the claimants are now adult women. Their allegations go back some years, but at the time they were all girls."

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