The Who guitarist has protested his innocence since being given a police caution in 2003 after he paid to see illegal pictures of abused children on a website, and was subsequently traced through the credit card transaction.
In his autobiography, Who I Am, Townshend said he hadn’t gone to court because he was too distressed to make a clear decision when asked – and added: “If I had had a gun I would have shot myself.”
Now he tells the BBC: “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. I did not enter the website. I did make the transaction, which I immediately cancelled.
“There was no evidence except the mea culpa of the credit card. I was charged, cautioned and put on the sex offenders register as a signal. I don’t think it was quite right.
“I got a letter from a policeman three or four days ago who headed up the investigation. He said: ‘We knew you weren’t a paedophile – we knew you weren’t a child molester.’”
The investigation, known as Operation Ore, netted 1600 people along with Townshend including comedy actor Chris Langham, who served six months in jail after illegal images were found on his computer.
Townshend and Langham both said separately that they’d been the victims of abuse when they were children, and were searching for a way to understand their own memories and experiences.
Who I Am is published on October 11.
-Classic Rock Magazine