At Kingston Crown Court on Friday 15th June 2018, Recorder Ann Mulligan issued three-year criminal behaviour orders in an attempt to curb violent crime.
The orders prohibit a West London drill music gang, known as the 1011 drill group, from mentioning death or injury in their songs. More specifically, the four defendants were ordered not to encourage violence, mention any particular postcodes in a gang-related context or make any reference to the fatal stabbing in West London of a 19 year old, nicknamed ‘Teewiz’.
The four defendants in the case, aged between 21 and 17 years of age, were ordered to give police 24 hours prior notice of any song they planned to publish on social media or 48 hours’ notice of any performances of their music. The gang’s tracks are allegedly linked to a rise in violent crime.
The orders also ban them from owning balaclavas and have prohibited them from attending Notting Hill Carnival.
The official police position was set out by the Head of Trident:
“We believe this to be one of the first times, if not the first time, we have succeeded in gaining criminal behaviour orders that take such detailed and firm measures to restrict the actions of a gang who blatantly glorified violence through the music they created. This isn’t about us straying into the area of regulation or censorship – we are not trying to ban anyone from making music nor are we demonising any one type of music – but the public rightly expect us to take action in a case such as this where a line has very clearly been crossed and the safety of individuals is put at risk.”
Drill music is a form of rap music which originated in Chicago. It is defined by its dark, often violent and rebellious nature. “Drill” is a slang word for use of automatic weapons and it more common usage refers to fighting or retaliating, corralling members to provoke rivals.
UK drill videos contain threats and provocation and are generally created by gang members from rival areas. These are not the kind of music videos which aim to capture the stark and often genuinely, artistic reality of a difficult young life; they go significantly further to glamourise young people brandishing weapons, making provocative remarks about incidents of other young people being seriously injured and killed, and they can contain explicit threats to stab or shoot specific individuals and members of rival gangs.
Social media makes the videos available to wide audiences and a lack of response to a perceived threat can lead to feelings and accusations of inadequacy or weakness, loss of status or reputation. Not responding in real terms can lead to young people being labelled ‘internet gangsters’ which is an insult.
Rap music in of itself is vastly popular with young people and the lyrics are distinctly ‘explicit’. This week, 20 year old rapper, XXXTentacion, was shot dead in Florida. His music is widely recognised as some of the best of its kind but had been removed from Spotify playlists due his own violent criminal behaviour and past offending. His YouTube channel has 5 million subscribers.
Drill music videos have featured in criminal cases before the courts. On May 17 2016, after a bitter YouTube rap war involving drill music videos, 4 London gang members were sentenced to a total of 97 years in prison for the murder of an 18-year old rival gang member in Hackney. During the trial, jurors were shown 8 videos featuring rival gangs making threats to each other in the months before the crime. The last of these films was a Hoxton Boys video, which issued threats to one of the defendants, and which was filmed at the location where the victim was ultimately stabbed to death two months later. One defendant took to Twitter just before the murder to tweet; ‘This road ting [gonna] end one day. They say the only way out is jail or dead and I see both.’ In sentencing the men, HHJ Rebecca Poulet QC told them; ‘I have no doubt that the ongoing threat between you and the Hoxton Boys was at the heart of this attack.’
Catch 22’s research concludes that ‘the content of online material that is provoking face-to-face violence comes in a variety of forms: music videos that taunt and provoke young people and groups, photos and videos of young people trespassing into areas associated with rival groups, photos and videos displaying acts of theft from young people, and photos and videos displaying real-life acts of violence’.
Practitioners seized of a more practical understanding of the uses and extent to which social media plays its role in violent and sexual crime would be more able to: