- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

LONDON British rock veteran Pete Townshend was arrested by police yesterday on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. Mr. Townshend has not been charged with a crime. Under British law, suspects are not charged immediately upon arrest.

Scotland Yard said Mr. Townshend, a 57-year-old guitarist with The Who, was held for several hours in custody at a London police station before being released on bail early this morning.

A police spokesman said, "He has been arrested under the Protection of Children Act 1978 on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children, suspicion of making indecent images of children and on suspicion of incitement to distribute indecent images of children."

The musician was questioned for about 80 minutes during his stay at a southwest London police station, officials said.

"Shortly after midnight, he was released on police bail pending further inquiries and will return to the station later in January," the police spokesman said on the condition of anonymity.

Standing outside the station, his attorney, John Cohen, said Mr. Townshend, who has not been charged, "may be required to answer some questions" later on.

As Mr. Cohen spoke, reporters spotted the rock star leaving in a car, lying on the back seat partially covered by what appeared to be a coat.

Police combating pedophilia had searched Mr. Townshend's house. He has admitted to viewing Internet child pornography but only in the name of research.

Carrying a box with envelopes, plastic bags and Polaroid film, officers from the Child Protection Command entered Mr. Townshend's house in the afternoon. He was arrested in the early evening.

Mr. Townshend said in a statement Saturday that he had gone online to research child pornography after a newspaper reported that an unnamed rock star was being investigated by police as part of a massive child-pornography inquiry.

British police have arrested 1,300 suspects as part of the sweep, including a judge, magistrates, dentists, doctors and a deputy school headmaster. Fifty police officers also have been arrested, and eight have been charged with offenses. The arrests are partly based on information supplied by American law-enforcement agencies.

Before police turned up at his home, Mr. Townshend told the Sun newspaper he wanted police to search his computer to prove he was looking at Web sites for only investigative purposes.

Mr. Townshend said he has worked "tirelessly" to help the abused but had been foolish to wage a one-man battle against child pornography. "I would be prepared to have the hard drive of my computer analyzed by the police," he was quoted as saying.

"It is important they are able to convince themselves that, if I did anything illegal, I did it purely for research. I am not a pedophile."

Mr. Townshend said he was outraged when he first came across child pornography Web sites six years ago when surfing the Internet with his son, Joseph, now 16.

Roger Daltrey, lead singer with The Who, told the paper he believed Mr. Townshend was innocent.

"Pete was very angry about how easy it was to get hold of child pornography on the Internet. My gut instinct is that he is not a pedophile, and I know him better than most."

Model Jerry Hall, ex-wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, also backed Mr. Townshend, saying he had advised her on how to prevent her children from accidentally accessing child-pornography sites.

"Peter 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 in a statement reported by British news organizations.

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