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10 Years Ago: Pete Townshend Cleared On Child Porn Charges

Tom Maelsa, Getty Images

Following a four-month investigation, Who guitarist Pete Townshend was cleared of charges related to child pornography on May 7, 2003, after examination of his computers equipment proved there had been no downloaded images of child porn.


Townshend had been arrested on January 13 of that year, after he used a credit card to view a child porn website as part of personal research while writing his autobiography. Townshend claimed he had been sexually abused as a child himself.

“The police have unconditionally accepted that these were my motives in looking at this site and that there was no other nefarious purpose,” said Townshend in an official press statement. “I accept that I was wrong to access this site and that by doing so, I broke the law.” He addressed the topic further in his 2012 autobiography, ‘Who I Am.’

“I was trying to prove that credit card companies were taking money for child porn websites,” he told the Today Show in 2012. “I didn’t enter a website, I didn’t look at images. A couple of us were campaigning and we gave it up in the end because it seemed so futile.”

It wasn’t until the release of ‘Who I Am,’ and the media interviews surrounding it, that Townshend has been able to fully address the topic to the press and the public. “I feel now, I can come and kind of face you.”

“More stuff has come up,” he continued. “A couple of the guys who were on the investigating force have given me letters to say that they never believed, and there was no evidence. A guy called Duncan Campbell got hold of the actual hard drive and said there is irrefutable proof that I didn’t enter [the website].”

Townshend was, however, placed on a national register of sex offenders by London’s Metropolitan Police due to his refusal to to go to court. “A forensic investigator found that I hadn’t entered the website, but nonetheless, by the time the charges came to be presented to me, it was five months…I was exhausted. I felt that if I went to court I would be offering myself up for sacrifice.”

Next: Top 10 Who Songs

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