Director of Public Prosecutions - concerns over knife imagery shared on social media
Social media is being used to glamorise gang lifestyle and the use of weapons, forthcoming CPS guidance on prosecuting gangs will say.
Images which show young people brandishing dangerous weapons and posts glorifying violent offending such as serious wounding and even murder are being used as evidence in court cases related to gang offending.
And threats to kill – also made on social media - have even been linked to retaliation offences according to Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions.
He said: “The use of social media by gangs to threaten and taunt others about recent attacks where young people have been killed or seriously injured is becoming all too familiar.
“The instant nature of social media means that plans develop rapidly, disputes can escalate very quickly and are seen by a large audience, which increases the perceived need to retaliate in order to ‘win’ the dispute.
“More so than ever, police and prosecutors are working together to make sure this evidence is captured to make the link between the images and retaliation attacks to make sure perpetrators of these horrific crimes are held to account for their actions.”
The use of social media by people suspected of gang related violent crime is one of the subjects explored in new prosecution guidance for gangs which is due to be published by the CPS in the spring.
The guidance is designed to help build the strongest possible case for prosecution by giving practical advice on gathering robust evidence to present to the court.
It will also cover examination of tactics used by county lines gangs to recruit vulnerable victims and the increase in the number of girls who become involved in gang related offending.
Max Hill added: “Getting the right evidence is absolutely crucial to make sure that we can show a jury the full circumstances of why a violent crime may have taken place and how offenders are linked in the carrying-out or the cover-up of a crime.
“Our guidance aims to make sure that police and prosecutors know what we need to prove these cases. We want to send a strong message that there is no hiding place for those committing gang-related crime.”
However, the guidance will also warn of the importance of having the evidence to prove gang involvement before applying that label to offending to avoid jury prejudice.
Max Hill added: “The term ‘gang’ is very loaded and it is vitally important to make sure that it is only used when there is evidence to prove it, whether that be an expert witness, CCTV or social media postings.
“We have to be extremely careful not to use that label when it is not justified.”