AN ARTIST who claimed he gazed at an indecent image of youngsters for ‘inspiration’ has been slapped with a fine.

Peter Lister denied he was a paedophile, claiming he needed illegal material uncovered at his home to motivate him when painting and drawing children.

The pensioner was yesterday unanimously acquitted of possessing four images of teenage boys but jurors later convicted him of having just one indecent image of a boy and girl, aged between 15 and 17.

Defence barrister Adrian Amer told Oxford Crown Court Lister, who accepted the jury’s verdict, had acted out of ‘sheer stupidity’ but vowed not to offend again.

He added: “This conviction is just more than a conviction, not only in his eyes but in the eyes of society, as we all know how he will be branded and considered, and how his career will be affected, and how people may very well come to the wrong conclusions on the basis of one particular image that he was found guilty of.

“It’s a very big price for a 70-year-old man to pay when he seems to be in the process of flourishing in his career.

“This is a stain on his life, on his future, and for the rest of his life, and it’s something he is going to have to put up with.”

Police barged into Lister’s Oxford home while he was out, seizing images after executing a search warrant at 9.30pm on July 18, 2015, prosecutor Gabrielle McAvock told the court on Wednesday,

Lister, who was orphaned at the age of 10, took the stand during his two-day trial, telling jurors the illegal material uncovered at his Southmoor Road home was ‘art’ which ‘informs’ his work.

The defendant, who revealed he is gay, confessed he ‘likes the male form’ but was adamant he had no sexual attraction towards children.

While being quizzed by Ms McAvock during cross-examination, Lister claimed he had not yet relied on the images for his work but kept the material just in case he ‘might be inspired later on’.

Ms McAvock said: “You like [these images] don’t you?”

Lister replied: “I have never really thought about it that way. I like the male form.”

Ms McAvock claimed: “Talking about art here is you trying to muddy the waters.”

Lister, who creates figurative art, then said: “I’m trying to tell the truth.”

A jury of seven men and five women delivered their verdicts at the court after two hours’ and 33 minutes’ deliberating.

The court also heard the defendant, who has a fine arts degree, was convicted after trial of taking a child without authority two decades ago.

He befriended a 13-year-old boy, who had skipped school, before taking him to his canal boat and returning him home 12 hours later, the prosecutor revealed.

But Mr Amer claimed there was no sexual element during the incident and raised concerns there would now be a ‘hysteria’ once news of the previous conviction emerged.

Sentencing, Judge Maria Lamb handed Lister a £400 fine and ordered him to pay £2,000 costs and a victim surcharge.

The judge, who ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the image, said the sentence for the ‘low-level’ image may seem lenient but went on to say other sex offenders have been punished at the court for possessing a higher number.

Lister denied five counts of possession of an indecent image of a child, aged between 11 and 17, on July 18, 2015.