Stephen Wright, Daily Mail (London), November 9, 2009
Officers have been advised to use the phrase ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ when describing sex attacks
Politically correct Scotland Yard chiefs have stopped using the term ‘gang rape’ because it is too ’emotive’, the Mail can reveal.
Instead officers have been advised to use the long-winded phrase ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ when describing sex attacks involving three or more culprits.
Critics branded the move by the Metropolitan Police an ‘affront’ to the victims of appalling sex crimes and are preparing to launch a campaign on the issue.
Six years ago the Met was at the centre of a similar row over its choice of language to describe ‘gang rapes’ after a senior officer referred to them as ‘group rapes’ during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Some community activists had previously suggested the phrase ‘gang rape’ had racist connotations.
Details of the latest police terminology are contained in an official Scotland Yard report which reveals a sharp increase in the number of gang rapes in the capital.
New figures revealed there were 93 gang sex attacks in the financial year 2008-9, compared with 71 in 2003-2004.
Meanwhile the age of victims has fallen with 64% aged 19 or younger in the last financial year compared with 48% in 1998-9.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Yexley admits in his report on ‘Multi-Perpetrator Rape and Youth Violence’ for the Metropolitan Police Authority that the ‘common parlance for this offence is ‘gang’ rape’.
But he adds: ‘This is an emotive term–but it is used widely in the public domain. There have been instances in the past where the term ‘gang’ has come to mean different things–either groups known to each other, criminal networks or peer groups.
‘Care has been taken with the definition of the term ‘gang’ in this paper. It is however accepted that there is a public perception/understanding of what this term means.
Recent academic studies have suggested that the term ‘Multiple Perpetrator Rape’ should be used as the overarching term for offences involving two or more perpetrators.
‘When examining rapes committed by multiple perpetrators, it should be noted that the number of offenders involved and the methods used by assailants, vary. Analysis on such offending is primarily based on victim testimony and any other supporting evidence, so links to ‘gangs’ cannot necessarily be established.
‘These offences are complex in nature, ranging from allegations of consensual sex between the victims and a known party followed by non-consensual assaults committed by associates, to stranger attacks involving large groups.’
Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, told the Mail: ‘I am disgusted to my very bones and weep for the victims of gang rape. I don’t usually approve of ‘four-letter words’ but there is no better way of defining gang rape. Ask the public if they need an academic study to work that out.
‘Jargon has been used to hide and confuse all sorts of things, that’s why Plain English Campaign was started. But using jargon clean up crime is the last thing I ever expected to see.
‘Ask any victim–rape is an emotive crime–it deserves an emotive term not some sterile, politically correct nonsense. This doesn’t deserve a Golden Bull award–this deserves a new campaign to give victims the respect they deserve.’
There have been a series of high-profile convictions of teenagers for gang rapes in the capital over the past year.
Two men who assaulted a girl aged 16 and doused her in caustic soda, disfiguring her for life, had their sentences increased on appeal.
In another case a 14-year-old girl was repeatedly raped “as punishment” by nine members of a Hackney gang because she had “insulted” their leader.
A meeting of the MPA, the Met’s board of governors, heard levels of gang rape are linked to overall youth violence.
MPA member Jennette Arnold said some offenders are from cultural backgrounds where rape is more common. She said the crime is seen by some as a “weapon of war” and more work needs to be done to get into the minds of culprits.
Mrs Arnold said: ‘It has got to be regretted that the increase in black victims has doubled.’
Commander Simon Foy, who leads the Met’s homicide and serious crime command, said there is no doubt the “abhorrent” crime of ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ is under-reported.
He said: ‘This is a phenomenon we are all concerned about. There is a substantial amount of this type of offending going on which we do not necessarily know much about.
‘The numbers we do have are relatively small. That makes it difficult to understand the trends and behaviours that are going on.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said the decision to use the term ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ was made by DCI Yaxley after he saw the findings of academic studies.