Admissibility of drill music as evidence

GEPP

25 April 2024

By Sabina Theobald

Drill/Trap music is a subcategory of hip-hop music which stereotypically stemmed from socially deprived groups from Chicago in the United States, UK drill music is the same type of music, typically about drugs, violence, and gangs.

This type of music is thought to be used as a communication from one gang to another, often to send threats. However, whilst it could be used in this way, the trap/drill music scene continues to become more popular and is made to appear attractive to that genre’s audience.

Often, UK rap artists do not rap for their country or borough but rather their post codes and home areas.

Is it a criminal offence to be part of a gang?

It is not a criminal offence itself to be part of a gang unless it’s part of a terrorist organisation. But being part of a gang can be used as part of explanatory evidence for a separate offence such as possession with intent to supply.

The police also have the power to enforce a gang injunction under Part 4 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 and can prevent the use of the internet to encourage gang violence or drug dealing by way of trap music.

Its also important to note that it is not a crime to produce or listen to drill/trap music. However, if you are on a court order with certain conditions then you may be prevented from producing or performing such music. An example of this was seen in January 2019, UK rap artists Skengdo and AM were placed on suspended sentence orders for performing drill music which incited violence towards their oppositions.

Can Drill music be used as evidence in a court of law?

Drill music can be admissible in a number of ways in criminal proceedings, such as:

  • Propensity – Drill music can be used to show the propensity of a Defendant committing an offence. For example, if a drill artist has produced a song regarding a murder and then they are arrested for murder, the Prosecution could question the propensity.
  • Explanatory evidence – Drill music can be used to demonstrate a gang affiliation and explain the background of a Defendant.
  • Rebuttal – If a Defendant has given evidence in a trial and stated something contrary to their interest, the Prosecution can use drill music to prove the Defendants inconsistencies. An example of this, would be if a Drill artist was on trial for possession of a bladed article and stated in the witness’s box that they do not have interest in weapons, but there was a music video by the artist with weapons demonstrating gang activity. This would prove that the Defendant lied.
  • Identification – Drill music videos can be used as a way to identify Defendants either by face or clothing. The prosecution can instruct experts to assess the music videos and identify who is who in a music video.

Whilst it can be very difficult and problematic for the Prosecution to rely on drill music as evidence, it can still be admissible. There is an argument as to if there is a public interest in pursuing such a case and if the case is serious enough to warrant the cost of the experts needed to prove that the music is evidential.