Pete Townshend says court 'would have destroyed me'

Pete Townshend The musician wrote hits including Baba O'Reilly, My Generation and Substitute

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Pete Townshend has told the BBC he lacked the "courage and strength" to go to court over allegations he had accessed a paedophile website.

The Who guitarist, 67, accepted a police caution in 2003 but was cleared of possessing indecent pictures downloaded from the internet.

Townshend admitted using his credit card to look at the site for research into child abuse.

Talking to Front Row, he said: "I think it [court] would have destroyed me."

"I think if I was in the witness box and a QC had said something to to me that was insulting, I know who I am, I would have leapt out and killed him."

But, he added: "That wasn't the reason I didn't go to court. I didn't go to court because I was in shock".

Townshend was placed on the sex offenders register for five years in 2003, after admitting he had used his credit card to access a website bearing the message "click here for child porn" four years earlier.

The veteran musician has addressed his arrest and the subsequent media fallout in his new autobiography, Who I Am, which is due out on 11 October.

Speaking to Radio 4's John Wilson, he said: "On this particular topic, you have to read the book, I accepted a caution from the police which led to me being labelled a sex offender but I did nothing wrong.

"What happened is that I did not enter the website, I did make the transaction which I immediately cancelled."

Operation Ore

Townshend's arrest came during the Operation Ore investigation into images of child sex abuse on the internet. He was one of 1,600 people arrested in the UK from details given to an American website.

It was the same investigation which saw British comedy actor Chris Langham found guilty of downloading images of children being abused.

Shortly after accepting his caution, Townshend told the Observer newspaper that he had been suicidal: "If I had had a gun, I would have shot myself."

Pete Townshend on stage in 1975 Townshend's autobiography charts his music career of almost 50 years

"What I did was wrong and stupid," he added. "My culpability is clear... but my innocence is absolute."

Townshend has continued to maintain his innocence. "There was no evidence except from the mea culpa of the credit card," he told the BBC. "So, I was charged, cautioned and put on the sex offenders register as a signal.

"But I don't think it was quite right."

In the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday, Townshend told the BBC: "I got a letter from a policeman three or four days ago who headed up the investigation who said, 'We knew that you weren't a paedophile, we knew that you weren't a child molester.'"

At the time of his arrest, Townshend received support from model and current Strictly Come Dancing star Jerry Hall; as well as his Who bandmate Roger Daltrey.

The pair played a selection of their biggest hits at the closing ceremony of the Olympics in August, but Townshend said the band could not continue indefinitely.

"I don't particularly want to do a Tom Jones," he said.

"I love Tom, I think he's a great man and performer, but I don't know if I want to be doing that."

The full interview with Pete Townshend can be heard on BBC Front Row at 19:15 BST on 9 October.

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