Pete Townshend Set Free

Inquiry into guitarist's child porn connections will continue

January 14, 2003 12:00 AM ET

British police released Pete Townshend just after midnight this morning after questioning the Who guitarist for an hour and twenty minutes about his use of child pornography on the Internet. Members of Scotland Yard's anti-porn task force Operation Ore also took boxes of computer equipment away from Townshend's London home to examine for evidence. The guitarist will return to the station later this month for further questioning, but he was not charged with a crime.

In the British paper The Sun yesterday, Who singer Roger Daltrey supported his band mate. "My gut instinct is that he is not a pedophile," Daltrey said. "Pete has perhaps been a little naive in the way he has gone about it, but I believe his intentions were good."

Townshend, 57, was arrested yesterday afternoon under suspicion of possessing indecent images of children and incitement to distribute them. British law permits police to arrest and detain suspected criminals without formally charging them. If eventually charged and convicted, Townshend would face up to a five-year jail term for viewing child pornography on the Internet -- considered "possession" -- but the punishment can be mitigated if he offers a credible explanation.

Townshend has admitted to looking at child pornography on the Web but maintains he was doing research for an autobiography. In a statement released Saturday, he said he suspects he was abused by his mentally ill maternal grandmother when he was five: "I can't remember clearly what happened, but my creative work tends to throw up nasty shadows -- particularly in Tommy."

That statement followed reports in the British press that authorities were investigating an unnamed "legendary British rock star" for child porn connections. Townshend positioned himself as an avid opponent of child pornography and pedophilia caught in a misunderstanding, saying, "I am not a pedophile . . . I hope you will be able to see that I am sincerely disturbed by the sexual abuse of children, and I am very active trying to help individuals who have suffered, and to prevent further abuse."

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