Townshend says Web watchdog backs his alibi. The rocker says emails between him and the Internet Watch Foundation support his defense on child-porn accusations

By Gary Susman
Updated January 30, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Pete Townshend: Reuters/Newscom

Pete Townshend says an Internet watchdog group can back up his defense that he was surfing child-porn sites strictly for research purposes, despite the group’s earlier denial that it had been in contact with the rocker. In a message posted on the Who guitarist’s website, he says he has received backup copies of e-mail correspondence between himself and the from the Internet Watch Foundation, a British organization that monitors obscene content on the ‘Net, from last year, when he says he alerted the group that he was visiting such websites.

Referring to his arrest Jan. 13 as part of a U.K.-wide child-porn sting, Townshend wrote yesterday, ”You may recall that among the media frenzy of a couple of weeks ago, representatives of the Internet Watch Foundation told the press and the news stations that they had never heard from me. I, of course, know that I did communicate with them several times last year, and they have now supplied to us copies of my emails to them, one in August and the rest in November. My lawyers have written to the founder of the IWF, Mark Stephens, who was adamant that they had never heard from me, asking for an explanation.”

On the IWF website, the organization responded to Townshend’s arrest by implying that it denied having been in touch with him because he had not explicitly given permission to reveal his correspondence. ”Because of the provisions of the Data Protection Act, we are unable to comment or disclose information about the personal details of individuals who make reports to us unless they give their permission,” the IWF statement reads.

Townshend was released the same day as his arrest without being charged for a crime, with authorities reserving the right to file charges later. The weekend before his arrest, he stated that he had only visited the child-porn websites three or four times, had used his credit card to gain admission only once, and had never downloaded any images. He also said he was doing research for an autobiographical book about his own dim memories of being sexually abused as a child.