Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter for The Who, has described his decision to investigate the roots of child pornography as "insane".

Following his arrest in 2003, the star insisted insisted he was looking at the website only while conducting "research" for a campaign against internet porn involving children.

The 67-year-old was cautioned and put on the sex offenders' register for five years.

pete townsend

Pete Townshend says his decision to look at child porn was 'insane'

In an interview with The Times, which is serialising his memoir, Who I Am, Townshend described what he had done as a product of "white knight syndrome, an attempt to be seen to be the one that's helping".

Speaking from his home in Richmond, he said: "It's a product of success. I had experienced something creepy as a child, so you imagine, what if I was a girl of nine or 10 and my uncle had raped me every week? I felt I had an understanding, and I could help."

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He intended to show that child abuse has a financial chain that runs from Russian orphanages to British banks by paying a £7 charge for a child pornography site, which he cancelled immediately, the newspaper said.

Townshend was arrested as part of the FBI-led Operation Ore crackdown. The investigation led to almost 4,000 arrests, including those of judges, teachers, doctors, care workers, soldiers and more than 50 police officers.

When police subsequently confiscated Townshend's computers and files they found nothing incriminating, but the damage to his image had been done.

"What I did was insane," said Townshend.

Asked why he did not speak out sooner, he said: "Because there was no sense of 'the truth will out'.

"I've had the misfortune to read online comments where I'm judged as a paedophile because I've got a big nose."

Who I Am will be released on 11 October.