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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Caution for Who star Townshend
Pete Townshend
Townshend said paedophilia is 'appalling'

Rock star Pete Townshend has been cautioned by police for accessing a paedophile website.

The guitarist and leading member of legendary band The Who will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years, and a DNA sample was taken.

The caution followed a four-month investigation, during which Mr Townshend was cleared of being in possession of indecent pictures downloaded from the internet.

Mr Townshend, who admitted using his credit card to look at the site for research into child abuse but denied being a paedophile, appeared at Kingston police station in London on Wednesday.

Scotland Yard said: "It is not a defence to access these images for research or out of curiosity."

Children's charity NCH said Mr Townshend's crime was "not a small matter" and should serve as a warning to others.

Operation Ore

Scotland Yard said the star, who was released on bail in January, had "fully co-operated" with the investigation.

Mr Townshend also released a statement, which said: "I accept that I was wrong to access this site, and that by doing so, I broke the law."

But he insisted police had "unconditionally accepted" his explanation that he had looked at the site as research for his "campaign" against child pornography.

Mr Townshend added: "As I made clear at the outset, I accessed the site because of my concerns at the shocking material readily available on the internet to children as well as adults."

He said that he had been working on a campaign against all kinds of pornography since 1995.

'Not acceptable'

The NCH children's charity said it was not satisfied with Mr Townshend's defence.

John Carr, its internet safety adviser, said: "We hope that anybody else out there who might be looking at using the internet to get child pornography for the purposes of research is now properly warned.

"It is not an acceptable defence and it only helps keep the child porn industry going."

And a spokesman for Phoenix survivors, a group that represents victims of child abuse, said it was appalled at the "leniency" of the punishment.

He said: "He still insists that curiosity is a fair excuse for the sexual exploitation of children.

"If we found the actual victim his money paid for, would he feel any different?"

'Witch hunt'

Under the conditions of the Sex Offenders Register, Mr Townsend will have to register with the police every year and if he moves house.

Failure to do so carries a five-year jail sentence.

Mr Townshend was one of 1,600 people arrested in the UK from details given to an American child porn website.

His arrest was part of the Operation Ore investigation into accessing child porn on the internet.

Police searched the 57-year-old's home in Richmond, south-west London, in January and removed computers.

At the time of his arrest, the star was backed by friends from the showbusiness world.

The Who's frontman Roger Daltrey said he thought there had been a "witch-hunt" and added: "I think he is telling the truth."

Model and actress Jerry Hall and DJ Paul Gambaccini also rallied around to defend the musician.

The BBC's Nick Higham
"Pete Townshend said he had only visited the website for research"

Townshend: Speaking for a generation?
07 May 03  |  Entertainment
Townshend victim of 'witch-hunt'
11 Feb 03  |  UK News
Who star Townshend bailed
14 Jan 03  |  UK News
Townshend 'wrong' over child porn
12 Jan 03  |  UK News
I'm no paedophile, says Who star
12 Jan 03  |  UK News

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