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April Clare Welsh
22 November 2023, 13:25

Campaign to stop rap lyrics and videos being used in court launched by Art Not Evidence

The campaign is backed by a number of high-profile figures such as MP Nadia Whittome and Annie Mac

Drill rap evidence

A campaign to stop rap lyrics and videos from being used as evidence in court rooms has been launched by UK-based group Art Not Evidence.

Members of Art Not Evidence — a collection of youth workers, lawyers, academics, musicians, journalists, and music industry professionals — have penned an open letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Justice in which they state their mission to "fight for a fairer legal system by advocating for a restriction on the use of creative and artistic expression as evidence in criminal trials."

"We believe that art, including music, should be protected as a fundamental form of freedom of expression and should not be used to unfairly implicate individuals in criminal charges," they write.

Working with the University of Manchester’s Prosecuting Rap project, Art Not Evidence say researchers have discovered over 70 cases involving over 240 defendants in which rap evidence has been used in court in the last three years. Art Not Evidence say the vast majority of the defendants were young, Black men and teenagers.

The Met Police's Project Alpha unit, launched in 2019, has targetted social media, with 1,825 removal requests being made to YouTube last year alone

As we reported last month, 64% of TikTok content removal referrals from London’s Metropolitan Police during the 2022/23 financial year were related to UK drill music, according to new data obtained by DJ Mag via a Freedom of Information request. 

The Art Not Evidence campaign is backed by high-profile figures such as MPs Nadia Whittome and Kim Johnson, Shami Chakrabarti and Annie Mac.

Whittome, Member of Parliament for Nottingham East, is planning to table new legislation in the next parliamentary session, which has been drafted by Art Not Evidence and "will force more stringent rules on how creative expressions can be used as evidence."

Find out more about the campaign and sign the open letter here.

Read Will Pritchard's recent investigation into the impact of the takedowns on artists in the UK drill and rap scene.

Read about the vital work of Manchester-based research project, Prosecuting Rap, who are fighting the use of rap lyrics in court.