The national police service of Scotland has been criticized for referring to pedophiles as “Minor Attracted People,” or MAPs, in a major end-of-year report, with many arguing the term seeks to normalize child abuse.
The phrase was included by Police Scotland in an annual performance assessment, provided by Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, when outlining how the force had engaged with the Horizon Europe program to tackle and prevent child sexual exploitation.
The report said it would continue working on the EU project, which aims to “develop understanding and approach to avoid the victimisation of children by engaging Minor-Attracted People (MAPs) and providing them with the necessary support, treatment and guidance to help prevent criminal activities.”
Responding to concerns expressed about the language used in the report, the Scottish police force insisted it had opposed describing pedophiles as MAPs and had only done so in this particular report to remain consistent with the term used by Horizon Europe.
“Police Scotland does not use the term Minor-Attracted Person. The reference in the Chief Constable’s Assessment of Policing Performance 2021/22 was in the context of Police Scotland’s engagement with the Horizon Project EU consortium to tackle Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation,” a police spokesperson said.
“The term was used in the commissioning documents for the consortium and is more commonly used on the continent. In September, Police Scotland representatives successfully lobbied for the MAP term not to be used by the consortium,” they added.
The EU-funded project regularly uses the controversial term to describe pedophiles and continues to do so to prevent stigmatizing child sex offenders, despite outrage from campaigners who argue it normalizes child sexual abuse.
The project, dubbed the “2PS – Prevent & Protect Through Support” program, has received €2.41 million of EU taxpayers’ cash in the last three years; it is led by the Polish Platform for Homeland Security, with the assistance of police forces, academics, and experts across several European countries including Germany, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
In its objective, detailed in a fact sheet published on the European Commission’s website, the Horizon Europe project reiterates that it “condemns all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation,” but stresses that to address the issue of child sexual abuse, authorities must understand the need of “Minor Attracted Persons” for “support and guidance to prevent them from abusing.”
“By addressing the support needs of MAPs, engaging Individuals at Risk (IAR), sharing the best practices for guidance, therapy and treatment methods – combined with new training and awareness for frontline support workers and LEAs – we can begin to move preventive actions to the forefront, offering alternative courses of action to existing offenders and IAR – including MAPs.”2PS – Prevent & Protect Through Support Fact Sheet
Child welfare campaigners and politicians, however, have slammed the continued use of the term, which is regularly promoted within European Union publications.
Kenny McAskill, Scotland’s former justice secretary, said the term and any other that seeks to “mask the reality” and “danger” of pedophiles is unacceptable. “The term in whatever context is baloney,” he added.
A Scottish Conservative spokesperson told The Telegraph newspaper: “Most Scots will find any attempt to soften the language around pedophilia in official guidance to be deeply disturbing and wrong.
“Offenses relating to pedophilia are among the most appalling and unforgivable crimes anyone can commit, and it’s essential that Police Scotland guidance reflects this,” they added.
More broadly across Europe, opponents to the new language are voicing their concerns that the equilibrium between protecting children and seeking to prevent the stigmatization of pedophiles has become imbalanced.
Anna Zobnina, coordinator of the European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW), recently wrote to EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel to demand an inquiry into how and why the MAPs term came to be used.
She instead proposed that a more accurate term would be “pedo-criminals,” and argued the current phrase risks rebranding dangerous child abusers as “simply adults attracted to children.”