Author and youth worker Ciaran Thapar launches newsletter on youth culture and social change

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Ciaran Thapar, youth & education worker and author of book Cut Short: Why We’re Failing Our Youth – and How to Fix It, has launched a new “youth culture, social change and city life” focused newsletter, called ALL CITY.

It will be published every Thursday morning, with the first edition Unsilent Witness, sent out yesterday (January 12) – in which he recounted his efforts defending drill artists from prosecution, in the face of usage of music videos, social media and lyrics as evidence in criminal trials.

Thapar wrote about when he was asked to be an “expert witness” in a case in February 2021, where the defendant was a “Black male defendant from south-east London”.

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He was facing gang-related charges, and the majority of evidence that the prosecution presented consisted of music videos found on the internet, and Thapar challenged a witness statement penned by a Metropolitan Police officer, which he claimed contained a number of misinterpretations.

Thapar alleged: “A Metropolitan Police officer had written a witness statement in which violent rap lyrics – those of the defendant and others – were misinterpreted as literal, specific and written in the first person, as opposed to figurative, generic and written as a narrator.

“The officer had referenced what they believed to be the defendant’s gang membership with poorly-researched prose about the evolution of drill music,” he continued. “They claimed for instance, that UK drill started in 2012, which is impossible, given that Chief Keef had only just kickstarted the genre in its original home of Chicago that year.

“The word ‘balaclava’ was typed as ‘baklava’.”

Read this next: “We own the ball now”: How UK producers set a new standard for drill

Since then, Thapar said he has been called to be an expert witness on similar cases “many times”.

Cut Short, [Thapar’s book] which took me three years to write, at 356 pages long, amounts to roughly 110,000 words” he wrote. “Cumulatively. I’ve now submitted not far off this in witness statements.

“I end up shouldering a strange, sometimes overwhelming moral responsibility. The partial weight of a young person’s freedom can be dropped or carried in the precision of my words. The bizarreness of this isn’t lost on me – it keeps me up at night.”

To read the first edition of the newsletter and subscribe to ALL CITY, visit Thapar’s Substack page.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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