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Drill Rap in Criminal Trials

Following the airing of the recent documentary: Defending Digga D (BBC Three), debates about the violence in the UK drill music caused controversy – accusing the documentary for glorifying knife crime. Such responses may seem justified, due to fatal incidents linked to drill music. But it remains difficult to prove a direct link between drill lyrics and the evidential facts of criminal offences, beyond speculation and interpretation.

Our experience as a rap expert (Dr. Lambros Fatsis) and a criminal defence barrister (Narita Bahra QC) is that reactions to drill as a criminal subculture can be exaggerated, ill-informed and have limited evidential value. Recently working together on a murder trial case involving drill lyrics, we encountered first-hand experience of how drill rap can be presented to a jury, without adequate knowledge about the genre. Prosecutors are more regularly seeking to rely on drill lyrics as factually accurate evidence to prove guilt.

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It is imperative that defence teams mount a proper legal challenge to the material, to ensure that it is not given adverse weight and that convictions are safe.

One year after sixty-five signatories from human rights organisations, as well as musicians, lawyers and academics warned against the criminalisation of drill, putting drill on trail dominates media commentary and court proceedings – raising concerns about prejudicial attitudes towards a music genre that is treated as a legally punishable offence.

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