Sobbing uncontrollably, the 70-year-old said he had been in a bad place in his life, and was struggling financially, with alcohol and with drugs.
He issued a tearful apology to his fans, saying: “I lost my own dignity, and I am so sorry. I am very sorry.”
Glitter, on trial under his real name Paul Gadd, denies 10 charges relating to three girls between 1975 and 1980.
In November 1997, when he went to pick up a Toshiba laptop he had handed to a PC World branch in Bristol, he was arrested, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.
The engineer who examined the machine had discovered images on it related to child abuse.
Mr Gadd subsequently admitted responsibility for a “large number” of images – depicting a full range of sexual activity taking place between men and very young children – being on his computer.
He was jailed for four months in 1999 for the collection of 4,000 images.
In cross-examination, prosecutor John Price QC, asked the singer: “Why were you looking at pictures of men having sex with young children?”
Immediately breaking into sobs and reaching for a tissue, Mr Gadd replied: “I was in a very bad place in my life at that time and I had a lot of very serious decisions to make about my future.”
He added that he had invested £200,000 in his own career, and that his record company and fans were demanding a lot from him.
‘I was abused’He said that at that stage in his life he was not able to empathise with the child victims of the indecent images that were found on his computer, but added that he now recognised the damage caused to the vulnerable youngsters.
He said: “I was abused as a child, so maybe I was trying to work my own feelings out.
“Today it would not happen, I have no interest in looking at that awful porn now.
“[I have] absolutely no interest at all, it has destroyed my life, it has destroyed my family’s life and it has most likely destroyed all those poor victims’ lives. I have total empathy for those poor children.”
In this trial, he is accused of attempting to rape and indecently assaulting a girl under the age of 13 in 1975.
He was quizzed about the allegation that the youngster was lying in bed with a friend when he attacked her.
But Mr Gadd said he had no recollection of the girl, asserting that he did not try to rape her and that he had no clue why she had made up the allegations.
“I can’t say why anybody would dislike me,” he told jurors. I did not try to rape her or any other child.”
“I have absolutely racked my brains to wonder why she could say such a terrible thing.”
‘Accomplished liar’The court heard that in the mid-1970s his management concocted a story that he was retiring “for love”, something that the singer went along with in an effort to boost concert sales.
Jurors were told that in his 1999 autobiography, Mr Gadd described his involvement in the ruse as an “Oscar winning performance”.
Mr Price said: “What each of these three ladies has told us is true, isn’t it? And you, Mr Gadd, are an accomplished liar.”
The singer firmly replied: “I am not a liar. I believe that I have told the truth all through this, all through my life actually.”
He is also charged with four counts of indecent assault on a fan in 1977 at hotels in Leicester and Birmingham when she was aged 12 and 13; plying the same girl with alcohol, and having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.
Two further charges allege he indecently assaulted a girl of 13 on a date between October 1979 and December 1980, in his dressing room at a venue in Watford where he was performing.
The trial has been adjourned until Monday.