Gang members who rapped about stabbing rivals have been banned from making music without police approval in an unprecedented court order.
Five members of west London drill group 1011 must obtain authorisation from Scotland Yard before recording or performing tracks and are prohibited from writing lyrics deemed by officers to “encourage violence”.
A wide-ranging criminal behaviour order (CBO) imposed at Kingston Crown Court on Friday also forbids them from referring to their own gang or rivals in their music and requires them to allow police to attend any performances.
The Metropolitan Police requested legal measures to restrict the Ladbroke Grove gang’s music after they were convicted of planning a machete attack on a rival gang.
Micah Bedeau, 19, Yonas Girma, 21, Isaac Marshall, 18, Jordan Bedeau, 17, and Rhys Herbert, 17, were all given custodial sentences on Monday after admitting conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
They were arrested in November last year after being found with machetes, baseball bats and a knife.
Police said they were planning a revenge attack on rival gang 12-World, from Shepherd’s Bush, who had filmed themselves harassing and threatening the Bedeau brothers’ grandmother.
Scotland Yard spent two years monitoring the gangs before their arrests, and said they exchanged drill videos and social media posts that were “clearly and only designed to incite violence and provoke each other”.
The force has repeatedly blamed drill, a confrontational genre of rap music that originated in Chicago, for rising knife crime in London and has launched a crackdown on the genre, demanding the removal of some videos from YouTube.
Drill often features lyrics about gang disputes, guns, drugs and stabbings, as well as lines personally taunting rivals which detectives warn can escalate feuds.
But fans argue the genre reflects the lives of marginalised, and usually black, youths on inner-city estates and have criticised the police crackdown as unjust and misguided.
Under the terms of the CBO, believed to be the first of its kind, the five members of 1011 are only allowed to meet each other in public to record or perform music, “for which authorisation must be obtained from police”.
The order requires them to notify police of the date, time and place they intend to perform at least 48 hours in advance, and permit officers to attend.
They must inform police of any new music twithin 24 hours of its release, provide officers with a list of all unreleased tracks, and refrain from publishing or specific songs that police have banned.
The order prohibits the gang from performing, recording or posting on social media anything that “incites or encourages” violence by “threatening or claiming to commit any act of violence”.
It also states they must not mention named postcodes “in a gang context” or make reference to the death of Teewiz, the nickname of 19-year-old Abdullahi Tarabi, who was stabbed to death in west London last year.
Some of 1011’s videos had been viewed more than 11million times on YouTube before they were deleted and the group had reportedly been in talks over a record deal before their arrests.
They face arrest and further imprisonment if they breach the CBO, which lasts for three years.
Judge Ann Mulligan said the order imposed a “proportionate” restriction on their freedom of expression, but the measures were criticised by campaigners.
“Banning a kind of music is not the way to handle ideas or opinions that are distasteful or disturbing,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of the Index on Censorship.
She added: “This isn’t going to address the issues that lead to the creation of this kind of music, nor should we be creating a precedent in which certain forms of art – which include violent images or ideas – are banned. We need to tackle actual violence, not ideas and opinions.”
The head of the Met’s Trident gang crime unit told The Independent the force was now likely to target other gangs with similar restrictions
Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Southworth insisted police were “not here to demonise drill music” and that videos flagged as a concern would be assessed on a “case-by-case basis”.
“This is not about regulation or censorship, this is about making sure that we look specifically at the behaviours that have occurred and do what we can to prevent them from occurring again in the future in a way that is likely to result in violence,” he added.
“We are here to make sure that, where somebody is clearly and solely trying to provoke an act of violence into being committed, we as inspectors do as the public expect us to do and step in to stop that happening.”
Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick has blamed social media for fuelling a surge in murders in London, singling out drill videos for inflaming gang tensions.
Scotland Yard has compiled database of more than 1,400 videos and has asked YouTube to remove up to 60 of them – including tracks by 1011 – in the past two years.
“We’re not in the business of killing anyone’s fun, we’re not in the business of killing anyone’s artistic expression – we are in the business of stopping people being killed,” said Det Chf Supt Southworth.
“When in this instance you see a particular genre of music being used specifically to goad, to incite, to provoke, to inflame, that can only lead to acts of very serious violence being committed, that’s when it becomes a matter for the police.”
However, critics said the focus on drill overlooked the root causes of youth violence and warned the Met’s strategy would deprive already disenfranchised youths of a voice.
“Blaming drill music for violence is like blaming rock groups for drug use,” said Elena Papamichael, a solicitor who specialises in representing young people. “Serious youth violence has been around for a lot longer than drill music.”
She claimed there was “undoubtedly a racial element to the drive to prevent drill music from being made”.
“The police have a long history of over-policing music of black origin so in this sense, this is nothing new and these tactics have not stemmed serious violence in any way,” Ms Papamichael added.
“Before drill, it was road rap that was the problem. Before that, it was grime and garage and the use of form 696 to stifle those genres of music and the artists from flourishing.
“What no one seems willing to admit is that there is a strong correlation between poverty and crime and that serious youth violence is precipitated by certain social conditions such as austerity and structural racism and classism
“This has been said again and again by people who work closely with young people and yet the people in positions of power choose to ignore this and favour increased surveillance and increased restrictions on liberty and civil rights.”
Ciaran Thapar, a youth worker and writer who has covered drill extensively, suggested a CBO banning 1011 from rapping about violence would solve little.
“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. “Suppressing it is going to do is push it further down and it will pop up in more extreme places.”
The gang were all sentenced to prison jail or youth detention for between 10 months and three-and-a-half years.
Ms Mulligan said their arrests averted a “very serious violent incident” between 1011 and 12-World.