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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 22:30 GMT
Townshend 'wrong' over child porn
Pete Townshend
Townshend: "Incredibly foolhardy, naive and misguided"
Who star Pete Townshend was "misguided at best" to view child porn on the internet, charities have said - although rock industry figures have supported him.

Mr Townshend admitted he had paid to see a child porn website, but insisted he had done so for research and was emphatically not a paedophile.

And celebrity friends - including model and actress Jerry Hall and DJ Paul Gambaccini - have rallied round to defend the musician.

But the Internet Watch Foundation - whose aim is to eliminate child porn on the net - said Mr Townshend had been "incredibly foolhardy, naive and misguided" to enter such a website.

Jerry Hall
Pete Townshend is the least likely profile of a child abuser it is possible to construct

Jerry Hall

Vice-chairman Mark Stephens said: "It is wrong-headed, misguided and illegal to look at, or download, or even to pay to download paedophiliac material and if you do so, you are likely to go to prison," said vice chairman Mark Stephens.

He said Mr Townshend had admitted a criminal offence, and if he was prosecuted it would be for the court to decide his motives in doing so.

"What he has done is incredible naivety at best."

Proper places

He said there were many authorities trying to combat porn on the internet, so individuals did not have to do "something illegal" to do so.

"There are proper places to go, including the police. It is not something for people to undertake themselves," he said.

Actress and model Jerry Hall gave a statement defending Townshend on Sunday.

Ms Hall revealed how she and Townshend had spoken at length at a dinner party in his home about the dangers of child pornography on the Internet.

"He advised me on how to prevent my children from inadvertently gaining access to such sites," she added.

She said the guitarist had spoken of his own fears that he was abused as a child.

"Pete Townshend is the least likely profile of a child abuser it is possible to construct and that is because he isn't one," she said.

'Abused as a child'

DJ Paul Gambaccini, has also stood by Townshend. He said paedophilia was a subject that had evidently concerned the star for many years.

If he was abused as a child, one feels sorry for him but it doesn't present anyone with an excuse for doing something illegal

Mark Stephens, IWF

Mr Gambaccini told BBC London: "He himself says that he was abused as a child and indeed he went on the record about this in Tommy with the song Uncle Ernie..."

"I therefore do trust him implicitly."

Press agent Chris Hutchins, a neighbour and long-time friend of Townshend, said: "Pete is no paedophile, there's no question about that.

Detective's advice

"Pete absolutely lives by his honesty. He's in a programme of recovery where to tell a lie could lead him back to a drink or drug problem."

Townshend's spokesman confirmed that they had also tracked down the officer he claims to have spoken to in October 2002 when initially investigating child pornography on the Internet.

Jackie Malton, who was then a Detective Chief Inspector working in Fulham, said in a statement: "I told him he had two choices, either to contact a former detective inspector who had joined the National Crime Squad as a civilian working as a computer expert and a former colleague of mine, or that he should contact the paedophile squad at Scotland Yard."

Paul Gambaccini
Paul Gambaccini: "I trust him implicitly"

But Children's charity NCH warned people not to carry out their own research into child pornography on the internet.

"An English court has never yet accepted that as a defence to a charge of possession," said its internet advisor John Carr.

'Vigilante'

"So people really shouldn't undertake these types of vigilante activities."

The star's admission came after the Daily Mail said a British musician was among those identified by a US police investigation for downloading child porn.

The Who guitarist, speaking from his home in Richmond, London, strongly denied being a paedophile and said police were aware he had studied child pornography.

The 57-year-old, who is married with children, said he was researching his possible abuse as a child for his autobiography.

He added that to fight paedophilia, "you have to know what's out there," and suggested he was acting as a vigilante for bodies like the IWF.

See also:

28 Jun 02 | Entertainment
03 Dec 99 | Entertainment
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