Paedophile artist Graham Ovenden's sentence is increased to 27 months
An internationally-renowned artist who avoided prison after being found guilty of sex offences against children was jailed for two years and three months by Court of Appeal judges today when they ruled that his non-custodial sentence was “unduly lenient”.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with two other judges in London, quashed the suspended sentence imposed in June in the case of Graham Ovenden, 70, of Barley Splatt near Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
Ovenden, who was accused of abusing children who posed for his paintings in the 70s and 80s, originally received 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years at Plymouth Crown Court, but the sentence was referred to appeal judges by Attorney General Dominic Grieve.
As well as the sentence review, the judges also heard a bid by Ovenden, who had denied the charges against him, to challenge his conviction. But the court rejected the application for permission to appeal, ruling that the verdicts were “safe”.
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Ovenden, who was present in court for the hearing, was convicted of six charges of indecency with a child and one allegation of indecent assault relating to three girls.
Lord Thomas, who said Ovenden had not shown a “shred of remorse” for his victims, ruled that the sentence should not have been suspended and the correct total to be imposed today was a term of 27 months.
Speaking after the hearing, the Attorney General said: “Graham Ovenden committed terrible sexual offences against vulnerable young girls who were in his charge and ought to have felt safe. He manipulated them and abused his position of trust.
“The Court of Appeal agrees that the 12-month suspended sentence handed to him was unduly lenient, and I am satisfied they have replaced it with 27 months custody.
“It is right that sexual crimes, whether committed many years ago or more recently, should be punished appropriately. Today the court affirmed this and sent a clear message that people who have behaved in this way in the past will face the consequences through the courts.”
Ovenden claimed that his interest in young girls was artistic and not sexual - but that claim was rejected by the three judges.
Lord Thomas said the girls had “no understanding of the true purpose” behind what Ovenden was doing.
“There was no doubt that his purpose was sexual. There is no doubt that he had a sexual interest in children.”
When considering the appropriate sentence the court had to have regard to the fact that the only mitigation Ovenden had was his former good character and his age.
Lord Thomas added that against that “there are a very large number of aggravating factors”.
Those factors included the “comparison in age between the victims and his own age at the time the offences were committed” and the number of victims.
But the “most serious” was the “very serious abuse of the position of trust” that he had in relation to the girls.
His reputation as a landscape artist enabled those who were closest to the children to trust him, said Lord Thomas.
There was also the factor of the “very serious impact on the victims, magnified by the way in which he had grossly manipulated them and degraded them by the photographs he had taken”.
Lord Thomas said the court had seen victim impact statements from the three victims in which they described how giving evidence at Ovenden's trial was the worst experience of their lives.
When suspending the prison term, the sentencing judge said he took into account Ovenden’s age, the length of time since the offences, and his “steep fall from grace and irretrievably tarnished reputation”.
It was argued on behalf of the Attorney General that “reputational impact” on him was not a reason for suspending the sentence and it was “wrong in principle” to take that into account.
Exceptional circumstances were required for a sentence to be suspended.
Lord Thomas said Ovenden had shown “no contrition”, maintaining that he had done nothing wrong, and that as an artist he seeks to “capture the innocence of children in a state of grace”.
He claimed he was the victim of a “global witch-hunt against artists”.
Lord Thomas said: “He seeks to blame others and asserts a conspiracy against him. It is self-evident he has no understanding of the very serious harm he has done to the victims by his serious criminal misconduct.
“He still asserts that art is being put on trial. That is nonsensical bearing in mind the facts.”