After more than an hour of questioning by police about child pornography he viewed on the Web, the Who's Pete Townshend was released on bail. He will be ordered to return to a police station in late January for more questioning pending further investigation, Reuters reported.
Townshend was arrested Monday 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 (see "Pete Townshend Arrested In Child Porn Investigation"), but he has not been charged with a crime. Under British law, suspects under arrest are not immediately charged, and some are released with no charge.
The guitarist, who is married and has three children, was nabbed as part of Operation Ore, a British child pornography investigation that has resulted in the arrest of more than 1,300 people in England, including teachers, judges, doctors, care workers, soldiers and over 50 cops, U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported. Operation Ore is the English response to Operation Avalanche, a U.S. Justice Department crackdown on over 250,000 suspected pedophiles around the world. That investigation was launched almost a year ago, and targeted subscribers to the world's largest Internet child porn network, which was run by a Texas couple who were jailed last year.
Over the weekend, Townshend admitted that he used a credit card to access an Internet child porn site, but claimed he did so only to conduct research for an autobiography that will address his own abusive childhood. Townshend has written about child molestation in his work (in the Who's 1969 rock opera Tommy a deaf, dumb and blind boy is sexually abused by his uncle), and said he thinks he might have been molested between the ages of five and six while under the care of his maternal grandmother. He insisted that he viewed the Internet child porn strictly to see if he could conjure up blocked memories.
In a comment to the British press, Townshend's mother Betty said, "I am unaware he had suffered abuse. If what he says is true he has carried it privately, even away from his mother and father. We are a loving Christian family and will continue to stand by Pete."
In a lengthy statement, Townshend insisted he is not a pedophile and emphasized how disgusted he is by the availability of child pornography over the Internet. He added that he has taken active steps to combat Internet pornography.
"I have felt for a long time that it is part of my duty, knowing what I know, to act as a vigilante to help support organizations like the Internet Watch Foundation, the NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] and Scotland Yard to build up a powerful and well-informed voice to speak loudly about the millions of dollars being made by American banks and credit card companies for the pornography industry," he wrote. "That industry deliberately blurs what is legal and what is illegal, and different countries have different laws and moral values about this. I do not. I do not want child pornography to be available on the Internet anywhere at any time."
The NSPCC confirmed Monday that Townshend had given money to their Full Stop campaign against abuse, but a co-chairman of the Internet Watch Foundation didn't have any knowledge about Townshend's claims that he contacted the organization to complain about child porn sites.
Townshend's fate will likely be determined by the contents of the computers removed from his home by police, but at this point there is some evidence supporting his assertions that he passionately opposes child pornography. In a post on his official Web site in January 2002 (which has since been taken down), Townshend wrote about the need to prevent people from easily accessing child porn on the Net.
"It must be time to do something more concrete to stop the proliferation of questionable pornography that seems so readily and openly facilitated by the Internet," he wrote. "The Internet provides a very short route, indeed, to some of the most evil and shocking images of rape and abuse. The subconscious mind is deeply damaged and indelibly scarred by the sight of such images. And I can assure everyone reading this that if they go off in pursuit if images of pedophilic rape, they will find them. I urge them not to try ... If they do, they may, like me, become so enraged and disturbed that their dreams are haunted forever."