On trial: legal agony aunt column to dispel law myths

By Alyson Fixter

An agony aunt who offers readers advice on topics ranging from jury
service to reporting rape is being offered to newspapers and magazines
across Britain in the hope she will break down barriers between the
public and the criminal justice system.

Yin Dewick, an award-winning London crown prosecutor, is to become a
“Dear Yin” figure in a regular column being trialled in five London
weekly papers and in Chinatown, the magazine for Britain’s Chinese
community.

The London Criminal Justice Board believes that
Dewick’s Chinese background will gain the trust of the Chinese
community, while her history in police training and as a domestic
violence expert will inform her columns.

She said: “Speaking as a
Chinese person, the Chinese community is quite invisible, quite a
closed community, and people are reluctant to come forward to report
crime, and we hope this is a good way of reaching them.

“Depending
on the level of interest, the columns could be used in magazines and
newspapers across the country – the more people who get to see this
information the better.

“One problem we might cover would be:
‘I’ve been raped and I’m fearful of going to court’, and then we could
tell the reader about the special measures we take for witnesses like
TV links and screens.”

The columns will at first cover commonly asked questions but will eventually answer genuine readers’

letters, using expertise from agencies including the police, CPS, courts, probation service, prisons and Victim Support.

Five
Trinity Mirror Southern regional newspapers, reaching more than 200,000
readers, and Chinatown, aimed at second and third generation Chinese in
Britain, will be the first to take on the columns, with the magazine
trialling it for a year and the newspapers trialling it for a month.

The
chief crown prosecutor forLondon, Dru Sharpling, said: “We are aware
that for many people, simply not knowing what to expect as a victim,
witness or juror adds to their fear of the criminal legal process,
making them reluctant to report crime or play their full part in the
delivery of justice.

“We hope the information in this column will dispel some of the myths.”

It will be available in 12 languages and is being offered to magazines and regional newspapers nationwide. Interested publications can contact LCJB.comms-london@cpsi.gsi.gov.uk.

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