Ron Smith, 80-year-old former D. C. Thomson and 2000AD artist, has been cleared of all charges relating to sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl following a 5-day trial at Guildford Crown Court. Smith maintained his innocence throughout, calling the charges ridiculous. "I never touched her in any way or at any point. I certainly never had sex with her and I did not rape her. I did not even go near her. It just did not happen ... There is not a shred of truth to these allegations, they are false through and through."
Smith was arrested last year when the woman, now 39, made a complaint to the police that she had been abused over a period of three years between the ages of 13 and 16.
The news of his release has been greeted with relief by fans of his work, although it was sad to learn, through the trial, that Smith has been suffering from skin cancer.
Ron Smith began his career as an artist after leaving the R.A.F., working for G-B Animation with such comics' luminaries as Mike Western, Eric Bradbury, Bill Holroyd, Harry Hargreaves and many others. He found work with the Amalgamated Press in 1950, first as a fill-in artists on humour strips before switching to adventure stories. Between 1952 and 1979 he worked almost exclusively for D. C. Thomson, drawing strips for Adventure, Hotspur, Topper, Dandy, Beezer, Bunty, Judy, Victor and Warlord. In 1979 he drew his first Judge Dredd episodes for the series "The Day the Law Died" and continued to draw the character for the next 15 years. He also drew for various other IPC titles, including MASK, Eagle, Wildcat and Toxic Crusaders before retiring in the 1990s.
Update (15 June 2009): An interesting commentary by Michael Molcher on how the case was reported can be found here.
Update #2 (5 August 2009): On 31 July 2009, John Freeman of Down the Tubes noted that the Sun newspaper website was still carrying its original report—with its leading headline ("Girl of 13 'abused by artist'")—on the Ron Smith trial but had not published a follow-up making it clear that the artist had been cleared of all charges.
2000AD fan "Van Dom" contacted the Sun and received a response from Jane Hamilton who works on the paper's newsdesk on 4 August stating that, "Having done some research this verdict was way back at the start of June and then only reported by a small number of local websites. I will need to find out why this is as no reputable news agency or freelancer has filed it to us. I will ask a reporter to check with the court."
The original story was subsequently removed from the Sun's website.
(* An early example of Ron Smith adventure story, "The Flame and the Arrow" © IPC Media.)