07 June 2018 | Chris Baynes | Independent
Five gang members who planned to attack rivals with machetes could be banned from making a genre of rap music that police blame for driving rising knife crime.
The Metropolitan Police is to apply to a judge for criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) that would prohibit the group, from west London, from producing drill music that “references violence”.
Detectives say the videos glamourise and often explicitly threaten violence, but fans argue they reflect the experiences of a disenfranchised inner-city youth.
Some of the videos removed from YouTube feature rappers subject to the CBO application and who detectives say are “promoting violence through their lyrics”.
Police said Micah Bedeau, 18, Yonas Girma, 21, Isaac Marshall, 18, and two 17-year-old boys, who cannot be named because of their age, were all members of a Notting Hill gang which planned to attack rivals.
Until recently, mainstream media have actively ignored drill, but are now jumping on a bandwagon of blame – not hesitating to pinpoint blame on the music and its disciples for perpetuating a recent spike of violence in London
They armed themselves with machetes, knives and baseball bats for a suspected revenge attack on a gang from Shepherd’s Bush who threatened and harassed Bedeau’s grandmother in a for being in the “wrong” postcode.
After being stopped by police, the Notting Hill gang initially claimed the weapons were props for a drill music video.
But all five pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit violent disorder at Kingston Crown Court last month and will be sentenced on Thursday.
After the hearing, the Met will apply for the court to ban all five from making drill music that “references violence” for three or five years.
Police said they would present “a raft of evidence” to the court to demonstrate how the gang were promoting violence through their lyrics and actions”.
Detective superintendent Adam Lowe cited seven videos featuring lyrics that “referenced several real and often violent events”, claiming “their aim was purely to glorify gangs and violence”.
They included “No Hook” by 1011, a rising west London drill group that includes Bedeau, who raps under the name Horrid1.
One line in the track runs: “Clock me an opp [opposing gang member], wind down the window, back out the spinner [revolver] and burst [shoot] him.”
Other lyrics cited by police referenced putting “bullets in numerous guys” and leaving “an opp boy splattered”.
Last month 1011 launched a petition – since signed by more than 5,000 people – protesting the removal of their videos from YouTube.
“No Hook” is among more than 1,400 tracks indexed by Scotland Yard on a database of videos it claims “raise the risk of violence”.
People identified in the videos can be targeted action prevent them from associating with certain people, entering designated areas, wearing hoods, making gang signs, or using social media and unregistered mobile phones.
However, an order to prevent drill artists making music after they have committed a crime would be extremely rare.
Jo Deakin, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Manchester, said she had never heard of a CBO being used to to restrict offenders from making a particular genre of music, although she noted ASBOs – the predecessor to CBOs – “notoriously imposed bizarre restrictions that were sometimes impossible to stick to.”
She added young offenders’ route to violent crime was “extremely complex often involving significant marginalisation and trauma, so any CBO would need to look at the bigger picture”.
Youth worker and writer Ciaran Thapar suggested banning drill would be ineffective, impractical and unjust.
“Those boys are still going to be finding ways of communicating their disaffection; they’ll just find ways that are less detectable,” he told The Independent. ”Drill music hasn’t been detectable to the mainstream audience because no one’s been bothering to look at it for three or four years. All that ignoring what it’s saying and suppressing it is going to do is push it further down and it will pop up in more extreme places.”
He acknowledged drill music was uniquely problematic in that “most musical genres don’t rely inherently on threats being sent on social media”, but added: “I would say policing social media rather than a type of music is a way more of objective, legal-based solution that doesn’t discriminate against the music.
“There’s a lot of music being made by, most of the time, young people that have no other investment or way out of poverty. [Banning drill] is not just and it’s not going to be useful.”
Scotland Yard’s crackdown on drill videos forms part of Operation Domain, which launched in September 2015 with the aim of taking action against gang-related videos encouraging violence.
“We will take decisive action to get videos of this nature removed from the internet,” said Det Supt Lowe. “Despite what the gangs may claim, there is a clear link, as in this case, to violence, and we will bring those videos before the courts to demonstrate the intention of those who make and take part in them to cause violence and disorder.”
Last month the government’s first ever Serious Violence Strategy said social media had created “an almost unlimited opportunity for rivals to antagonise each other” in ways viewed by a huge audience.
The strategy said videos and posts “glamorise weapons and gang life”, but it was heavily criticised for omitting a leaked report by the Home Office warning that police budget cuts had “likely contributed” to rising violence and “encouraged” offenders.
It comes against a backdrop of rising violent crime in London, where police have launched more than 66 murder investigations this year.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick cited drill music as one of many reasons being the recent uptick in attacks, alongside an evolving drugs markets, austerity and a “reduction in police finances”
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