Drill music as evidence of criminality

UK drill music is a subgenre of hip-hop and rap which has become increasingly popular since the late 2000s. Referencing gang violence and other gang related crime, the sound, lyrics and imagery are graphic and raw. The content includes boasts of violence, overt taunts and displays of weapons such as firearms, machetes and crossbows.

To some, including the mainstream press, it is seen as glorifying and inciting violence, particularly knife crime. The many who enjoy it often see it as a symptom or expression of their own experience or as part of their cultural identity. This includes many who have never committed any criminal offence.

Research by the BBC has suggested that drill music is increasingly used as evidence in criminal trials.

Drill music and joint enterprise

 Gang or youth violence prosecutions frequently involve joint enterprise laws. These laws mean that defendants may be convicted and sentenced based on association.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stated in June that UK drill music videos could be used as ‘admissible evidence’ if they link suspects believed to be affiliated with gangs to a crime.

Chief Crown Prosecutor and CPS lead on serious violence, Claire Lindley, has said that drill music should only be used when it is genuinely important and relevant to a case. For example, the fact that a defendant is in the same music video as a co-defendant may be used as evidence to show a link to a group of people.


While lyrics from drill music have been used as evidence to prosecute suspects, there is a great deal of controversy around this including concerns that the practice may be racist and as risking a fair trial. Most UK drill artists are young black males from deprived social backgrounds. It is argued that the perception and interpretation of ‘outsiders’ is skewed as they do not understand the context from which it comes.

Commentators also point out the difficulties of accurately defining the meaning of a particular lyric as so many nuances may be relevant. Furthermore, who has the credentials to interpret this?

It seems that in many cases, finding the right expert will help to avoid incorrect inferences being drawn and the wrong conclusion being reached.

We are experienced in representing clients in cases where drill music is used as evidence and can advise on the issues involved.

For more information on this and what it might mean for you, contact us now.