“It’s tantalising evidence …. but you’ve got to look at the wider picture.”: The Utility of Social Media as Evidence in Cases of Group-Related Violence.

Dr Tara Young1, Dr Susie  Hulley2

1University of Kent, England
2University of Cambridge, England

Research has shown that it is common for music lyrics and videos to be interpreted in court as ‘rhymed confessions’ (Neilson and Dennis, 2019) or authentic accounts of serious criminality. Drawing on interviews with homicide detectives and lawyers experienced in investigating and prosecuting cases where the doctrine of joint enterprise has been applied, this paper critically examines the utility of lyrics and music videos as evidence in criminal trials. Drawing attention to the dangers of (mis)framing and (mis) interpreting online content to make inferences about motivation, common purpose, and intention to commit serious violence. The results reveal where such material is admitted as evidence in court it has the potential to negatively influence jury decisions and criminalise secondary parties who become ‘guilty by association’.


Dr. Tara Young is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Kent. Dr. Young’s research interests include collective offending, gangs and gendered violence. Her body of work critically examines the manifestation of the ‘gang’ as a social problem in England and Wales within the context of increasingly punitive political and criminal justice responses to youth violence. Her last research project (co-led by Dr. Susie Hulley) examined conceptions of friendship, violence and legal consciousness among young people engaged in serious forms of collective violence in which the law of complicity could apply.


Dec 09 2021