Art Not Evidence Campaign Launches To Stop Use Of Rap Lyrics Being Used As Evidence In Criminal Trials

Harvey Marwood

By Harvey Marwood

Harvey Marwood

23 Nov 2023

This week, a new campaign group, formed in a bid to curb the prejudicial use of rap lyrics and music videos as evidence in UK court rooms, has found itself at the forefront of the public eye.

The group, called Art Not Evidence, consists of youth workers, lawyers, academics, musicians, journalists and music industry professionals and is fighting to prevent potential miscarriages of justice by keeping this unreliable and often racialised form of evidence out of UK courts.

It seems that in a world where the youth are encouraged to be creative and show means of creative expression, it is commonly becoming somewhat a negative benefactor in society today. Often when lyrics and creative media is introduced in court, it has no direct connection to the case itself – instead manipulated as evidence to lean into stereotypes and gang narratives to secure a conviction.

Nadia Whittome, Member of Parliament for Nottingham East, will table new legislation in the next parliamentary session introducing a rigorous set of tests for whether prosecutors should be allowed to put rap evidence — including lyrics, recorded tracks, and music videos — in front of juries.

Speaking about the Creative and Artistic Expression Bill and the need for change, Whittome said:The misuse of rap lyrics in court is a clear example of the institutional racism that blights our criminal justice system. It is a practice that relies on racist stereotypes, using young Black people’s creative expression and taste in music in an attempt to turn juries against them, and risks miscarriages of justice.

“The threshold to admit rap music as evidence must be far higher. I will be working with Art Not Evidence in Parliament to bring about legislative change.”

An open letter penned by members of the group which sets out the issue in more detail can be found here.