He insisted at the time that he had simply been conducting ‘research’ when he paid £7 with his credit card in 1999 to access a website bearing the message ‘click here for child porn’.
Despite his denials of harbouring depraved desires, he accepted a police caution, and was duly placed on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
His image has never fully recovered, although he did play at the Olympics closing ceremony this summer, along with The Who’s only other surviving original band member, lead singer Roger Daltrey.
He has now broken his silence on the issue, as he promotes his new autobiography, Who I Am.
Speaking to The Times, Townshend said that he had struggled to express himself in the book because his actions seemed ‘insane’, even to him.
He said that when the police raided his home in 2003 after combing through the records of a US company hosting child porn sites, his main concern was just that they would read his diaries, featuring dilemmas about which yacht or flash car to splash out on, and think he was ‘a self-obsessed prat’.
Instead, he found himself condemned as a paedophile around the world.