Art Not Evidence Launches Campaign to Stop Rap Lyrics Being Used as Evidence

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Keir Monteith KC, of the Garden Court Chambers Criminal Defence Team, is a member of Art Not Evidence. Keir is frequently instructed in trials and appeals where rap evidence is prejudicially used.

Other Garden Court members involved are Audrey Cherryl Mogan and Shina Animashaun.

Press coverage in The Guardian, Rolling Stone and The Irish Times.

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A new campaign group has formed in a bid to curb the prejudicial use of rap lyrics and music videos as evidence in UK court rooms.

The group, called Art Not Evidence, comprises youth workers, lawyers, academics, musicians, journalists, and music industry professionals and is fighting to prevent potential miscarriages of justice by keeping this unreliable, often racialised form of evidence out of UK courts. An open letter penned by members of the group, which sets out the issue in more detail, can be found at the following link here.

It is often the case that the creative expression introduced  in courts has no direct connection to the case itself. Instead, the evidence is used to lean into stereotypes and gang narratives to secure a conviction.

Nadia Whittome MP will table new legislation drafted by Art Not Evidence in the next parliamentary session which will force more stringent rules on how creative expressions can be used as evidence.

Keir Monteith KC, of Garden Court Chambers and a member of Art Not Evidence, instructed in trials and appeals involving rap evidence said:

“One day we will ask ourselves how on earth the state was ever allowed to get away with using rap music as evidence to prosecute Black defendants in serious crime cases. Making music isn’t evidence of crime but the prosecuting of it is. As a result, the state creates unsafe convictions, perpetuates racist stereotypes and restricts artistic expression. This has got to stop.  Join Art Not Evidence to help liberate rap from the legal system.” 

The Creative and Artistic Expression Bill has already received support from Kim Johnson, Member of Parliament for Liverpool Riverside, and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.

Speaking about the issue, Chakrabarti said:

“To infer criminality from the consumption of culture is as racist as it is foolish. I am no more a gangster for enjoying mafia movies than I am a terrorist when I listen to rebel songs. Our justice system will be fatally flawed as long as it treats young black art as evidence.”

The UK-led campaign follows the success of similar efforts in the United States, where artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kelly Rowland, and Killer Mike have come out in support of the Restoring Artistic Protection Act — known as The RAP Act — which aims to block rap lyrics from being used as evidence in court. Similar legislation has already been successfully introduced at a state level in California.

Notes to editors

Art Not Evidence is a UK-based campaign group fighting for legal reform, specifically concerning the prejudicial use of creative expressions in UK courtrooms. Please see their blog on the launch here.

Key members:

  • Keir Monteith KC - Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
  • Dr Abenaa Owusu-Bempah - Associate Professor of Law, LSE
  • Elli Brazzill - Music Curator
  • Will Pritchard - Journalist
  • Sheryl Nwosu - Barrister at 25 Bedford Row & Chair of Black Music Coalition
  • Suleyman Wellings-Longmore - Artist and Legal Fellow at Haitian Bridge Alliance
  • Dr Lambros Fatsis - Senior Lecturer in Criminology, City University of London
  • Adèle Oliver - Author of 'Deeping It: Colonialism, Culture and Criminalisation of UK Drill’

Get in touch with Art Not Evidence: & follow them on social media here: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn.

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