Campaigners urge CPS to remove 'drill music' from guidance on gang-related offences

The Crown Prosecution Service has been urged to remove all reference to drill music in guidance on gang-related offences after research published by the University of Manchester this week suggests the use of rap as evidence is unfairly sweeping young black men and boys into the criminal justice system.

The university said rap is being used to build ‘gang-related’ prosecutions under highly contentious secondary liability laws and ‘gang’ labels are ‘evidenced’ by rap music to build joint enterprise trials.

The authors of the report, Compound Injustice, found 68 cases involving 252 defendants between 2020-2023 where rap music was used as evidence for serious charges of violence, including murder. Two-thirds of the defendants were black and a further 12% were black/mixed race. Nearly two-thirds of cases involving rap evidence had a prosecution ‘gang narrative’. Over two-thirds of defendants were 18-24 and 15% were 17 or under.

Delivering a lecture at the university entitled ‘Art Not Evidence: the misuse of rap in criminal trials’ on the day the report was published, Garden Court Chambers’ Keir Monteith KC said the CPS guidance contained no reference to drill being a mainstream musical genre, no reference to the risk of stereotypes, and no encouragement to find other evidence of alleged gang activity.

Keir Monteith KC

He said a review of the guidelines has lasted two years and the use of rap and drill in criminal cases ‘continues unabated’.

Monteith is a member of ‘Art Not Evidence’, a campaign group set up last year to advocate for a restriction on the use of art, particularly rap music, as evidence in criminal trials. The group has drafted the Criminal Evidence (Creative and Artistic Expression) Bill to be tabled in parliament and devised a short questionnaire for lawyers to gather more data.

A CPS spokesperson said: ‘We are clear – creating or listening to rap or drill music is not a crime. We do not seek to prosecute people for their taste in music. In fact, we recognise the right to creativity and freedom of expression. We also understand that lyrics are not necessarily meant to be taken literally. However, on occasion we have encountered cases where upon investigation into a violent offence, it became clear that drill and rap had been used in the build-up to encourage or incite violence, or reveal information about a crime that only the attackers would know.’

The spokesperson said no one has been prosecuted solely due to their involvement with drill or rap music, ‘but it has been used to establish association between parties in some serious cases involving gang violence’.


The authors of the University of Manchester report, Compound Injustice, are Eithne Quinn, Erica Kane and Will Pritchard.


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