LONDON (Reuters) - British artist Graham Ovenden was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence on Tuesday after being found guilty of a string of sex offences against child models.
The 70-year-old, whose major works feature young girls, was convicted in April of six charges of indecency with a child and one of indecent assault. The offences involved three girls and took place between 1975 and 1985.
A spokeswoman for Plymouth Crown Court in southwest England said Ovenden received a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and was put on the child sex offenders' register for five years.
The court was told his portraiture formed part of a ruse for abusing girls by making them dress up in Victorian clothing before removing it and committing indecent acts, according to the Press Association news agency.
Judge Graham Cottle told the court that there was no doubt of Ovenden's sexual interest in children at that time, but in sentencing the artist he took into account references and letters written by his supporters.
Ovenden, whose work has been widely shown globally for more than 40 years, denied all the charges and refused to apologise to his victims outside the court, telling the BBC that he planned to appeal against a "mindless witch hunt".
Throughout his trial Ovenden had claimed his images of naked girls were celebrations of the innocence of children.
Following the conviction in April, Britain's Tate gallery removed more than 30 prints by Ovenden from its online collection, including images of naked and semi-nude young girls.
The artist'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.
In 2009 he was charged with 16 counts of creating "indecent" photographs of children and two counts of possessing 121 "indecent" photographs, but the case was eventually thrown out.
On that occasion Ovenden pleaded not guilty to child porn offences but did not deny making the images, which he said were to be used for an art work.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)