Goldsmiths Law is delighted to host a research seminar by Dr Abenaa Owusu-Bempah, Assistant Professor of Law at the LSE, on the use of rap music as evidence in criminal trials.
In recent years, a number of high-profile rappers, have seen prosecutors use, or attempt to use, their music as evidence against them at a criminal trial. This is part of a growing trend of ‘prosecuting rap’, aided by easy access to lyrics and music videos through phones, social media and YouTube. The use of rap as evidence has received less scrutiny in England and Wales than in the US, where serious concerns have been raised about the discriminatory nature and prejudicial effect of this practice. There is, however, a small and growing body of literature from this side of the Atlantic which surveys some of the causes and consequences of prosecuting rap, usually from a sociological, criminological, and cultural studies perspective. Informed by these perspectives, Dr Owusu-Bempah's presentation seeks to expand the debate and advance knowledge of the way in which rap is prosecuted, by focusing on what happens in the courtroom. It presents findings from an exploratory study of reported appeal cases in which music lyrics and participation in music videos was used as evidence at trial, or treated as an aggravating factor at sentencing. Through an analysis of appeal cases, the presentation reveals and critiques the profile of ‘rap cases’ and scrutinises the way in which the law of evidence has been applied to rap music in English criminal trials. Dr Owusu-Bempah will argue that courts should be slow to admit rap music as evidence of guilt, and should not enable prosecutors to rely on stereotypical narratives and racist imagery to construct case theories.
Dr Owusu-Bempah's research interests lie primarily in the areas of criminal procedure, the law of evidence and criminal law. Her current research focuses on the admissibility and use of rap music as evidence in criminal trials. Abenaa also researches fair trial rights and the participatory role of defendants in criminal proceedings, and she has expertise in hate crime legislation and the legal process for prosecuting hate crime.
Goldsmiths Law's Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos will chair the seminar. Participants will be able to participate by asking questions and commenting via the chat function.
Dates & times
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|18 Feb 2021
|2:00pm - 3:00pm
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