Barrister says council's drill music review plan may 'penalise communities'

Harrow Civic Centre

Harrow Civic Centre: Harrow and Brent councils are 'currently behind the curve of proactively identifying gang tension' and drill music is a way in - Credit: Google

A barrister has warned that council plans to hire someone to review the lyrics of drill music to combat gang violence might only deepen tensions within the community.

Shahida Begum, of Garden Court Chambers, responded to a plan put forward by Harrow Council officers to hire a "serious violence interpreter" through the Mayor of London’s crime prevention funding.

According to the council’s quarterly crime report published in December 2020, the scheme – which would cost just under £12,000 – aims to “better understand some of the messages in drill music”.

Ms Begum’s law firm has hosted several webinars on the dangers of linking drill music and gang violence, while it has acted on behalf of drill musicians and gang members from inner-city areas across the UK.

She suggested this initiative could have an adverse effect by criminalising a certain type of music.

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She said: “It seems to me that the advert is unclear what the "serious violence interpreter" would be used for but if it’s to further penalise an already marginalised community the concern is it would be harmful and create further distrust between the authorities and the community.

“It won’t address the root causes of the issues it seeks to address, and the funds would be better spent elsewhere.”

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Harrow resident Soria Hamidi also questioned the wisdom of the proposal, suggesting it would be an unwise use of taxpayers’ money, and she lodged a Freedom of Information request asking for more details on the subject.

In response, Harrow Council officers explained the borough, alongside its command unit partners Brent and Barnet, is “currently behind the curve of proactively identifying gang tension and reprisal information via social media through drill music and other platforms that need to be interpreted to reduce gang violence”.

According to their proposal, the interpreter would “assess, analyse and translate the information on social media streams such as YouTube and any other platforms where information is being shared to glorify gang violence”.

This, they added, could ultimately “provide police with information that could assist with the prevention and deterrence of criminality” in this area.

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