Pete Townshend admits it was ‘insane’ to investigate roots of child porn

THE Who legend Pete Townshend has admitted his decision to investigate the roots of child pornography was “insane”.

The guitarist and songwriter was cautioned and put on the sex offenders’ register for five years in 2003 for looking at child porn on the internet.

The star insisted he was

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looking at the website only while conducting “research” for a campaign against internet porn involving children.

He has spoken out ahead of the release of his memoir, Who I Am, and insisted his interest was only in standing up for victims. He described what he had done as a product of “white knight syndrome; an attempt to be seen to be the one that’s helping”.

Speaking from his home in Richmond, south-west London, he said: “It’s a product of success. I had experienced something creepy as a child, so you imagine, what if I was a girl of nine or ten and my uncle had raped me every week? I felt I had an understanding, and I could help.”

He intended to show that child abuse has a financial chain that runs from Russian orphanages to British banks by paying a £7 charge for a child pornography site, which he cancelled immediately.

When police subsequently confiscated his computers and files they found nothing incriminating. But Townshend admitted the damage to his image had already been done. “What I did was insane,” he said.

Asked why he did not speak out sooner, he said: “Because there was no sense of ‘the truth will out’. I’ve had the misfortune to read online comments where I’m judged as a paedophile because I’ve got a big nose.”

Townshend has spent years trying to come to terms with the impact his arrest had on his reputation. He appeared in a BBC documentary on the work of Scotland Yard’s Child Protection Team in 2004, despite reported attempts by the star’s lawyers to block the show.

The hard-hitting series, Police Protecting Children, shows Townshend being questioned at Twickenham police station after his arrest for viewing child pornography. The programme’s producer, Bob Long, said at the time: “Our footage shows a living legend reduced to being asked if he has learning difficulties. It’s a big leveller.”

Townshend, was arrested in January 2003, as part of the Operation Ore investigation into accessing child pornography on the internet. The star admitted using his credit card to access images, but said they were for “research” for a book he was writing. He received an official police caution for “accessing a website containing child abuse images” after the investigation found he was not in possession of any downloaded images of child abuse.

Speaking in May that year, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: “After four months of investigation , it was established that Mr Townshend was not in possession of any downloaded child abuse images. He has fully co-operated with the

investigation.

“As a routine part of the cautioning process, fingerprints, a photograph and a DNA sample will be taken. Additionally, in these cases, the person concerned will be entered on the sex offenders’ register for a period of five years.”

After being placed on the Sex Offenders Register, he said: “From the very beginning, I acknowledged that I did access this site and that I had given the police full access to all of my computers. As I made clear at the outset, I accessed the site because of my concerns at the shocking material readily available on the internet to children as well as adults.”