Pete Townshend Arrested In Child Porn Investigation

Legendary guitarist could face five to 10 years in jail.

The Who’s Pete Townshend has been arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography. British police have not yet charged the rock star with a crime, but they are holding him at a London police station, according to wire service reports.

Police nabbed Townshend for suspicion of possessing indecent images of children, suspicion of making indecent images of children and suspicion of incitement to distribute indecent images of children.

Townshend could face up to five years in jail for accessing child porn online. If he forwarded the images to someone else, he could face up to 10 years.

The guitarist was arrested under the Protection of Children Act early Monday evening (January 13) after police searched his home and office in Richmond, Surrey, outside London. Police removed computers from the 57-year-old’s home and are examining them.

Over the weekend, Townshend admitted he had used his credit card to enter a pay Web site advertising child pornography. He claimed he didn’t download any images and was appalled by what he saw.

“I am not a pedophile,” Townshend said in a statement. “I have never entered chat rooms on the Internet to converse with children. I have, to the contrary, been shocked, angry and vocal (especially on my Web site) about the explosion of advertised pedophilic images on the Internet.”

Townshend claimed he accessed the Web sites because he was researching material for his autobiography, which will include passages about his abusive childhood. In his statement, he said he thinks he may have been sexually abused between the ages of 5 and 6 while in the care of his maternal grandmother, who was mentally ill.

“I cannot remember clearly what happened, but my creative work tends to throw up nasty shadows — particularly in Tommy,” he said. “Some of the things I have seen on the Internet have informed my book, which I hope will be published later this year, and which will make clear to the public that if I have any compulsions in this area, they are to face what is happening to young children in the world today and to try to deal openly with my anger and vengeance towards the mentally ill people who find pedophilic pornography attractive.”

Townshend’s bandmate Roger Daltrey leapt to his defense Sunday in the U.K.’s Sun tabloid, saying, “I believe Pete is innocent. I believe his innocence will be proven. My gut instinct is that he is not a pedophile, and I know him better than most. If he was a Gary Glitter, I’d tell you and I’d say he deserves everything he gets. Pete has perhaps been a little naive the way he has gone about it, but I believe his intentions are good.”

The Who singer added that Townshend told him how disgusted he was by Internet child porn after he once accidentally clicked onto such a Web site while surfing the Net with his son, Joseph, who is now 16.

“Pete was very angry about how easy it was to get hold of child pornography on the Internet,” Daltrey said. “The ad was made to look like a video game, attractive to kids. It made him angry that people were making money out of it, and he’s discussed this a lot with me.”

Townshend was busted as part of Operation Ore, which is England’s reaction to Operation Avalanche, a U.S. Justice Department crackdown on more than 250,000 suspected pedophiles across the globe, who were traced using credit cards to pay for Internet child pornography. In recent weeks, Scotland Yard has arrested over than 1,300 suspects in the investigation, including more than 50 police officers, judges, teachers, doctors, care workers and soldiers, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported.

[This story was updated on 01.13.03 at 05:21 p.m. ET.]