Art Not Evidence launches campaign to prevent rap lyrics being used as court evidence

Nadia Whittome MP is set to table the legislation drafted up by the campaign group in the next parliamentary session.

Today (22 November), Art Not Evidence has launched in a bid to stop the prejudicial use of rap lyrics and music videos in UK court rooms. The new campaign group is made up of youth workers, lawyers, academics, musicians, journalists, and music industry professionals who are working to fight for a fairer legal system in order to keep this often racialised form of evidence out of criminal hearings.

The campaign is supported by Annie Mac, IDLES, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and more as well as MPs Kim Johnson and Nadia Whittome – the latter of whom will present the new legislation, titled the Creative and Artistic Expression Bill, in the next parliamentary session. “The misuse of rap lyrics in court is a clear example of the institutional racism that blights our criminal justice system,” Whittome says of the issue. “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.”

According to studies from the University of Manchester and the educational institute’s Prosecuting Rap project, at least 240 defendants over the past three years have had rap music used as evidence in cases against them.

Members of Art Not Evidence have also penned an open letter which outlines the issue in more detail. More information on the UK-led campaign – which follows similar efforts with the Restoring Artistic Protection Act in the US – can be found on the Art Not Evidence website.