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Facts of the Townshend child porn case derived from the British media


 [References and sources listed at bottom of document]

  • Jan 13, 2003 Townshend arrested by British police in child porn investigation.

  • He was given a tip-off that the police were going to raid his home three days before they arrived.

  • His credit card usage to access a child porn site was traced to him through Operation Ore the British counterpart of the US Operation Avalanche.

  • When confronted by the British police, he admitted using his credit card to access a child pornography website.

  • Townshend claimed he was researching a book which has never been written. At another time he claimed he was researching child porn to protect his son.

  • He confessed guilt to a crime. He was thus given a 'caution' from the British police and avoided a trial. (U.S. equivalent of a guilty plea with adjudication withheld – see note 1 on a 'caution' below under Reference).

  • Bob McLachlan, former head of Scotland Yard's pedophile unit slammed the caution as 'totally inappropriate.' He said: 'Why is this rock star being given such lenient treatment when he has accepted a caution and therefore admits his guilt? Townshend claims he only did it for research, a common excuse used by pedophiles.' Sun 050803

  • His admission to using his credit card to access a child porn website and that he had viewed child pornography images was the central component of his guilty plea.

  • A Scotland Yard statement stressed that access and payment for child abuse images was an offence. London Times May 8, 2003

  • He had access to his attorneys at all times. He avoided charges beyond a caution as the police did not detect any images of child rape on his 14 computers.

  • Townshend was never cleared of his offence and remained on the Sex Offender registry for the full five years 2003 – 2008.

  • Townshend had to give a DNA sample, check in with the British police regularly and inform them of his movements during his Sex Offender registration.

  • The London Times, in an article published on May 8, 2003, stated that Townshend will also have a lifelong criminal record for the caution.

  • On June 22, 2006 the London Times reported that Townshend had withdrawn an ‘ill-advised’ teen sex story from his blog which depicted graphic teen sex. He told the Daily Mail: ‘I've taken down my story. I want to make it clear that I respect the requirements of the sex offenders register without condition.’

    Breaking conditions of a caution results in the original offense being prosecuted in a British court.

  • Confusion was introduced into the Townshend case by British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell in an article he wrote for the UK's Guardian (041907) where he stated “(Operation) Ore has dragged big names into the spotlight - such as the musicians Pete Townshend, the Who guitarist, and Robert del Naja of Massive Attack, both falsely accused of accessing child pornography.”

    Campbell said this even though he knew that Townshend had admitted to breaking the law and had accepted the consequences. Why Campbell said what he said remains a matter of conjecture. Del Naja was cleared. Townshend wasn’t.

  • Campbell’s arguments against Operation Ore, initially well received, were cast under a shadow when the computer expert he used, Jim Bates of Computer Investigations, was convicted in March 2008 of falsifying (he lied) his qualifications and given a six-month suspended prison sentence. As a self proclaimed pioneer of forensic computer analysis, Bates had until his conviction been used widely by police and prosecutors. He is no longer used as an expert witness by prosecutors. See 'How police put their faith in the 'expert' witness who was a fraud' Guardian UK March 23, 2008

  • The US Smoking Gun carries an 8-page article on Townshend from 2003 (see link below). A notable quote on the Smoking Gun reads as follows:

    Townshend's paper, which he once posted on his official web site, also notes that the "pathway to 'free' pedophilic imagery is--as it were--laid out like a free line of cocaine at a decadent cocktail party: only the strong willed or terminally uncurious can resist." In the January 2002 porn treatise, Townshend notes that since 1997 he has been working on "some kind of document" relating to Internet porn, but that he feared being arrested by police who were on a "witch hunt" to catch anyone who visited illicit web pages: "Those vigilantes who research these pathways open themselves up to internet 'snoops.'"

  • The FBI’s manual for law enforcement when dealing with Child Molesters – Child Molesters: a behavioral analysis (available free at the link below) - the following excerpt is of relevance when dealing with those caught accessing child pornography - titles and page numbers referenced:

     “Concerned Civilians” (P93 - 94)
    Many individuals who report information to the authorities about deviant sexual activity they have discovered on the Internet must invent clever excuses for how and why they came upon such material. They often start out pursuing their own sexual/deviant interests, but then decide to report to law enforcement either because it went too far, they are afraid authorities might have monitored them, or they need to rationalize their perversions as having some higher purpose or value. Rather than honestly admitting their own deviant interests, they make up elaborate explanations to justify finding the material. Some claim to be journalists; researchers; or outraged, concerned members of society trying to protect a child or help law enforcement.

    One especially sensitive area for investigators is the preferential sex offender who presents himself as a concerned civilian reporting what he inadvertently “discovered” in cyberspace or requesting to work with law enforcement to search for child pornography and protect children. Other than the obvious benefit of legal justification for their past or future activity, most do this as part of their need to rationalize their behavior as worthwhile and gain access to children. When these offenders are caught, instead of recognizing this activity as part of their preferential pattern of behavior, the courts sometimes give them leniency because of their “good deeds.”


1. What is a caution?

In the US it is a guilty plea with adjudication withheld

According to the British Home Office - (See conditional caution)

Police can only issue a simple caution if:

  • there's evidence an offender is guilty 

  • the offender is 18 years of age or over

  • the offender admits they committed the crime

  • the offender agrees to be given a caution – if the offender does not agree to receive a caution then they may be charged instead

 There are no rigid rules about the particular situations in which cautions should be used –
 this is at the discretion of senior police officers.

 Source: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/powers/cautioning/index.html

2. Cops can come and get me Sun UK 011303

3. Pete Townshend put on sex offenders register: Guardian UK 050803

4. Fury at Townshend let-off Sun UK050803

5. Pete Townshend on sex register over child porn: London Times 050803

6. Smoking Gun Townshend archive (8 pages) 2003

7. My suicide thoughts over porn – Townshend: Guardian UK 122803

 8. Townshend fails to block BBC film on pornography arrest:  Independent 032104

9. Townshend withdraws 'ill-advised' teen sex story: London Times 062206

10. Operation Ore flawed by fraud: Guardian UK – Duncan Campbell 041907

11. UK's top computer forensics expert escapes jail: 041008

12. Child Molesters: a behavioral analysis – National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (free - available in the mail or for immediate download)


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