Victims' rights - by country

Finland

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Finland

How and where can I report a crime?

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

What information can I obtain from police or victim support xorganisations during the investigation of the crime?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How and where can I report a crime?

You can report a crime to the police in one of the following ways:

  • to the police patrol when it arrives at the crime scene;
  • in person - at any police station (regardless of the place where the crime occurred), where your identity can be checked, and, in the case of a violent crime, your injuries can be documented;
  • by telephone to the 112 EU emergency phone number,
  • by e-mail or fax (applicable only for less serious crimes) – you can find electronically available forms to report an offence in English, Finnish and Swedish.

If:

  • you are in need of urgent help or want the police to come to the scene;
  • the crime has been committed through burglary;
  • you do not know the name of the area where the crime occurred;
  • you have become victim of a crime abroad

you should not use the electronic form. Telephone the police or have someone call them on your behalf.

No special forms for reporting a crime are required. Your report however needs to include:

  • your personal data such as your name, address, phone number, citizenship, and identity number;
  • a description of what happened and how it happened;
  • precise time and place of the events;
  • name of the offender, if known;
  • description of the offender (age, height, build, facial features, eye colour, teeth, speech, hands, way of walking, dress), how and in which direction the offender fled, if the offender had a vehicle, the vehicle registration number and other means of identification (make, colour, model), how dangerous the offender is (armed, state of mind, threats, substance abuse, etc.).

You can report a crime even if you do not know the identity of the offender. You can report the crime in a language you know and understand and an interpreter or translation will be arranged for you. This is normally free of charge. You may also be accompanied by a friend or a member of your family, who can serve as an interpreter.

There is no specific deadline for reporting a crime but after a certain period of time the prosecution cannot be initiated. This period may vary from two to 20 years depending on the seriousness of the crime (the only exception is for offences for which the most severe sentence is life imprisonment). For your own legal protection and safety it is essential to report the crime as soon as possible. The sooner you make the report the greater the chances are of the police finding the offender.

You are strongly encouraged to report any crime of which you are a victim so that it can be investigated. The police may, however, also investigate a crime if it is brought to their attention by other means.

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

The police will register the reported crime and will usually initiate a pre-trial investigation. When the crime is registered it will get a reference number. You have the right to get a copy of the report, which will include a reference number and the name and contact details of the investigator assigned to the case. You can contact the investigator in order to follow up on the case. You have the right to check the results of the pre-trial investigation unless the investigator considers that this would hinder the investigation.

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

By reporting the crime to the police you become a party to the proceedings. You will be heard during the investigation, and you can also submit evidence. You are not obliged to prove any aspects of the crime.

If you have already provided the necessary information when reporting the crime, you will not be questioned during the investigation. If you are intoxicated by alcohol or another drug, or you are in a disturbed state of mind, in shock or another similar situation, you can only be questioned if it is absolutely necessary to solve the case. Where appropriate, a doctor or a person close to you may be consulted prior to questioning.

You have the right to use your mother tongue if it is Finnish or Swedish. If you are a Sami you are entitled to use the Sami language within your Home Territory. You have the right to an interpreter free of charge if you do not know any of the official national languages in Finland (Finnish or Swedish) well enough.

You can be represented by an attorney or counsel (1) or by your statutory representative (for example your guardian). If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual offence or other violent offence, the court may appoint a support person (2) for you. The investigator (police or prosecutor) may permit you (and your representatives) to be present during the questioning of another party or witness and to put questions to them. Otherwise, you will be informed of what has been revealed during the questioning.

You have right to be interviewed in a calm and proper manner and without delay. At the interview you need to tell the truth. Your counsel or support person has the right to be present when you are questioned, unless the head of investigation prohibits this for important reasons related to the criminal investigation.

If, as a victim, you want to obtain compensation in the form of damages from the offender, you have to bring a civil claim in relation to the offence (3).

Most offences are subject to public prosecution irrespective of whether you have reported the crime or the police received information from other sources. However, some less serious offences (for example, petty theft, petty embezzlement, criminal damage, petty criminal damage, defamation, unauthorised use of somebody else’s property, and criminal trespass) will usually be investigated only if you, as a victim, make a request that charges be brought and that the offender be punished..

Before closing a pre-trial investigation, you may be given an opportunity to make a statement on the material gathered in the pre-trial investigation if this would be useful for the trial. Your statement will be attached to the record of the pre-trial investigation. You and/or your attorney will be sent a copy of the record of the pre-trial investigation on request.

What are my rights as a witness?

In Finland, as the victim of a crime you cannot be questioned as a witness. Instead, you can be heard for the purpose of collecting evidence.

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are under 18, you are considered a child and investigative measures involving you will usually be performed by police officers especially trained for this. If your interests and the interests of your parents differ you shall be represented by somebody else. Legal assistance is also available to you.

If there is reason to believe that you have become a victim of a sexual or other serious crime, your statement during the pre-trial investigation should be recorded on video.

If you are under 15, the person responsible for your care and custody, your guardian or other legal representative has the right to be present during your interview. If you are over 15, but do not have full legal capacity (i.e. you cannot perform legal actions alone), your representative has the same right to be present. Only in cases where it is necessary to carry out the questioning without delay you may be questioned without your representative being present. In such cases your representative will be notified of the questioning as soon as possible. The investigator may prohibit the presence of your representative, if he/she is under suspicion of the crime under investigation.

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

The investigation authority, usually the police, can inform you:

  • what measures will be taken in relation to your case;
  • if a report does not lead to a pre-trial investigation or in the event that the pre-trial investigation is closed or when the matter is not submitted to a prosecutor for decision;
  • if the pre-trial investigation will continue only if you demand that the offender is punished and that the case will be closed if you withdraw your request;
  • about your rights and obligations during the pre-trial investigation;
  • when an attorney (1) or support person (2) can be appointed for you;
  • of your entitlement to compensation;
  • on matters such as the offender’s release from pre-trial detention when the police have a reason to suspect that your security might be threatened by the offender.

Can I receive legal aid?

You can receive legal aid (4) if you have minimal or no income or assets. Legal aid is free of charge. You can contact a State Legal Aid Office to get advice on the possibility of receiving legal aid and how to apply for it.

You are entitled to legal aid if you are resident in Finland, or a citizen of a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area. In addition, legal aid might be granted if your case will be heard by a Finnish court or if there is a special reason for legal aid to be given. Preliminary legal advice by phone or by means of electronic communication is free of charge.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offence or other offence of serious violence, the court may appoint an attorney (1) and/or a support person (2) for you for the pre-trial investigation and the trial, regardless of your income. The attorney helps you with legal matters and the support person provides psychological support. Their fees and expenses are paid by the State.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

Police officers can remove anyone who unlawfully disturbs your domestic peace or detain him or her in custody.. The detained person can be kept in custody only for as long as the disturbance is likely to recur, but in any event no longer than 24 hours. Police officers can remove a person from other premises if they decide that it is likely that he or she will commit an offence against your life, health, liberty, home or property. There is also a possibility for you to apply for a restraining order (5).

If you do not wish the suspect to see your contact details, you can ask the police to omit them from the record of the pre-trial investigation. You can also contact the local register office and ask them to prohibit disclosure of your address. This means that your address will not be provided to anybody but the authorities. The local register requires that you make your request in writing stating the reasons for the request. Alternatively, you can go to the local register and make your request in person.

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

You will get the basic services you need from your municipality. If you have been injured as a result of the crime, you need to consult a doctor as soon as possible. A medical certificate may be necessary during the trial or when you apply for compensation from your insurance company or from the State. In cases of sexual offences you must avoid washing yourself and changing clothes before you consult a doctor. If somebody has broken into your flat it is important that you do not clean the premises before the police arrive.

You can receive medical or psychological assistance but you may be asked to pay for it unless you have valid health insurance. Citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card. You may be compensated for costs that have resulted from the crime, such as medical costs and other costs related to an injury.

You may also rely on support organisations for crime victims. They have trained professionals available who can give you legal advice, support and other forms of assistance. Most of their services are strictly confidential and you can contact most of them anonymously: Victim Support Finland, Multicultural Women's Association - Monika, etc. The SOS-centre of the Finnish Association for Mental Health has a nationwide crisis phone number where you can call and get support over the phone (01019 5202).

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

Mediation (6) is usually done before the charges have been brought. Especially in cases that are not complicated and in cases for offences prosecuted upon your own initiative the trial can be avoided through conciliation.

The decision whether to carry out mediation in a particular case is made by the local mediation office. Mediation services are provided free of charge. In general, a case can be referred to mediation by you, the offender, the police or the prosecutor.

Mediation offices and the police authority handling your case can provide you with further information on mediation in penal matters.

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

After receiving the record of the pre-trial investigation from the police the public prosecutor decides whether to press charges before the court or to close the case. Before making a decision, the prosecutor can invite you and/or your counsel (1) to discuss the case.

The public prosecutor can withdraw his or her decision not to prosecute only if there is new evidence, which shows that the decision has been based on incomplete or erroneous information. A superior prosecutor also has the right to reopen the case.

Once the public prosecutor has brought charges, the prosecution cannot be repealed or waived without due cause.

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

If you consider that the public prosecutor has acted incorrectly when making a decision not to prosecute, you can appeal to the Prosecutor General. You need to make the appeal in writing and include a short description of the case: which decision you consider inappropriate and why, and what outcome you expect. It is preferable if you also attach to your application the previous decisions concerning the case and all other documents you have. Your signature and contact information must be included as well. You can send your application by post or submit it in person to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The Prosecutor General can decide to reconsider the decision.

If the prosecutor decides not to press charges or to repeal the charges that have already been brought, you can press charges yourself using your secondary right to prosecute (7). You can also bring charges yourself in cases where the police decide not to conduct a pre-trial investigation, to suspend or to close an investigation.

For offences prosecuted upon your initiative, if you withdraw your request for punishment of the offender during the pre-trial investigation, the police will close the case. By doing this you may lose your right to bring charges. After withdrawing your request, you no longer have the right to resubmit it. You will also lose the right to support the charges brought by the prosecutor or to appeal against the decision of the court. This applies both to offences subject to public prosecution and offences for which the prosecution rests with you. However, you may still make a civil claim (3).

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

You have the right to an interpreter free of charge if you do not know any of the official national languages in Finland (Finnish or Swedish) well enough. Important documents may be translated for you free of charge.

If you are a victim of human trafficking and do not live in Finland, you have the right to get special help available to victims of human trafficking. This help may include housing, social and health services, legal counselling and assistance, security arrangements and other forms of support that you need. There are reception centres in Joutseno and Oulu responsible for the administration of services to victims of human trafficking. The suspicion alone that you could be a victim of human trafficking is enough to let you benefit from these services. If you reside illegally in Finland you may be granted a reflection period and under certain conditions a residence permit. The most important condition is that you cooperate with the authorities to catch the persons suspected of the trafficking. Before deciding whether you want to cooperate with the authorities, you may be granted a reflection period of at least 30 days and a maximum of six months.

The Ombudsman for Minorities also offers legal advice and assistance. Help is also provided by many civic organisations or associations, such as Victim Support Finland, Multicultural Women's Association - Monika and Pro Centre Finland.

More information:

  • Pre-trial Investigation Act 449/1987 (Esitutkintalaki 449/1987; Förundersökningslag 449/1987) – in Finnish and Swedish
  • Criminal Code 39/1889 (Rikoslaki 39/1889; Strafflag 39/1889) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Language Act 423/2003 (Kielilaki 423/2003; Språklag 423/2003) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Sámi Language Act 1086/2003 (Saamen kielilaki 1086/2003; Samisk språklag 1086/2003) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Legal Aid Act 257/2002 (Oikeusapulaki 257/2002; Rättshjälpslag 257/2002) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Police Act 493/1995 (Poliisilaki 493/1995; Polislag 493/1995) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Act on the Openness of Government Activities 621/1999 (Laki viranomaisten toiminnan julkisuudesta 621/1999; Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet 621/1999) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Pre-trial Investigation and Coercive Measures Decree 575/1988 (Asetus esitutkinnasta ja pakkokeinoista 575/1988; Förordning om förundersökning och tvångsmedel 575/1988) – in Finnish and Swedish
  • Prison Act 767/2005 (Vankeuslaki 767/2005; Fängelselag 767/2005) – in Finnish and Swedish
  • Code of Judicial Procedure 4/1734 (Oikeudenkäymiskaari 4/1734; Rättegångs Balk 1734/4) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Pre-Trial Investigations Act 449/1987 (Esitutkintalaki 449/1987; Förundersökningslag 449/1987) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Act on the Restraining Order (Laki lähestymiskiellosta 898/1998; Lag om besöksförbud 898/1998) – in Finnish and Swedish
  • Aliens Act 301/2004 (Ulkomaalaislaki 301/2004; Utlänningslag 301/2004) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Act 1015/2005 on Conciliation in Criminal and Certain Civil Cases (Laki rikosasioiden ja eräiden riita-asioiden sovittelusta 1015/2005; Lag om medling vid brott och i vissa tvister 1015/2005) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
  • Criminal Procedure Act 689/1997 (Laki oikeudenkäynnistä rikosasioissa 689/1997; Lag om rättegång i brottmål 689/1997) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
Notes:

1. Attorney/legal counsel
Generally, only a lawyer or another person who: has a Master’s degree in law, is honest and otherwise suitable and competent for the task, may serve as an attorney or counsel, provided that he or she is not bankrupt and that his or her legal capacity has not been restricted. Unless orally retained by the party in court, an attorney shall produce a power of attorney personally signed by his or her client. A lawyer and a public legal aid attorney, as well as a prosecutor who is representing the injured and presenting the civil claim of the injured party, need not produce a power of attorney, unless the court orders otherwise.
However, a direct ascendant or descendant of the party, a sibling of the party and the spouse of the party may serve as an attorney or counsel even if he or she has not earned the degree referred to above. If you have a statutory representative (for example your custodian if you are under age) he or she might in some matters be allowed to represent you. This depends on the issue at hand. The competence of the statutory representative is not based on the party’s authorisation, but on law and authorisation by authorities.

2. Support person
The support person gives you psychological support during the pre-trial investigation and the trial. For example, your support person has the right to be present when you are questioned, unless the head of investigation prohibits this for important reasons related to the criminal investigation. If you meet the conditions set out in the legislation, the support person is appointed for you regardless of your income. The fee of the support person is paid by the State.

3. Civil Claim
If you want to obtain compensation for damages from the offender, you need to report the damages to the police and state that you wish to claim such compensation. Your civil claim must be submitted in writing to the prosecutor, preferably during the pre-trial investigation. You can also ask the prosecutor to present your claim. You need to inform the prosecutor that you wish to make a civil claim in order to reserve an opportunity to submit your claim to the court even if the prosecutor decides not to present your claim.
Compensation can be claimed, for instance, for lost or damaged property, medicine costs and doctor’s fees, pain and suffering as a result of the crime, and mental anguish. You need to provide a description of the circumstances on which the claim is based. You are in principle under no obligation to present evidence for your civil claim, but without any evidence your claim will probably not be successful. You can indicate the extent of the damages by presenting the receipts for the costs you have incurred. Keep also any receipts for your insurance deductible and possible travel costs in connection with the investigation. Compensation for them, too, can be claimed from the offender.
You can present your claim yourself in the criminal case if you want to do so, or if the prosecutor does not present it on your behalf. Where possible, the claim should be filed during the pre-trial investigation. You can also present your claim yourself not as part of the criminal proceedings, but in a separate civil case. However, it is recommended that you present your civil claim as part of the criminal proceedings. Thus you will not have to pay the fees connected with starting a civil case and you will not be responsible for proving your claim (this will be done by the prosecutor as part of proving the charges).

4. Legal Aid
If you need assistance in a legal matter but cannot afford the necessary assistance, it may be provided to you, partially or fully at the expense of the State. Legal aid is available at any stage of the criminal proceedings and can cover the provision of legal advice, the necessary measures and representation before a court of law or another authority, and the waiver of certain expenses related to the case. In principle, legal aid includes all the necessary services of a legal assistant and reimbursement for necessary expenditures required in the criminal process.
The attorney can be a public legal aid attorney employed at the State Legal Aid Office or another private lawyer. If legal aid is granted to you, the State will pay the fee of the attorney in full or in part, depending on your income and available means. The work of the attorney can be compensated up to a maximum of 80 hours. However, in special cases the court may grant a dispensation from this limit.
Generally, legal aid is not provided if you have a legal expenses insurance that covers the case. Such insurance cover may be included for example in a household insurance policy, a labour union policy or a farming policy.
You can apply for legal aid at a State Legal Aid Office. The legal aid office will verify your financial situation. You need to present evidence of your financial situation and information about the case for which you ask for legal aid. A public legal aid attorney employed at the legal aid office, a private lawyer or another jurist can provide legal aid.
Legal aid may be granted from the date of the application or, if the relevant criteria are met, also retroactively to cover expenses already incurred in relation to the case. Legal aid is available at all stages of the proceedings.
Legal aid is granted on the basis of your monthly available means and wealth. This is calculated through your income, expenditures and maintenance liability. The available means of your spouse are usually also taken into consideration. You as recipient of legal aid have to pay a percentage of the fee of the attorney (basic deductible). The percentage depends on your monthly available means.
If you are a single person with monthly available means under 600 euro you can be granted legal aid free of charge. When your monthly available means exceed 1,300 euro (if you are single), or 1200 euro per person (if you are in a couple), legal aid will not be granted.

5. Restraining Order
If you feel threatened or harassed you can apply for a restraining order on the person threatening you. A restraining order means that to protect your life, health, freedom or peace, another person is ordered not to contact you. A restraining order may be imposed also when the person protected by the order and the person on whom the restraining order is imposed live in the same household.
The application can be made in writing or orally to the police or at the district court. It is the District Court that decides on the matter. A temporary restraining order, which enters into force immediately, can also be issued by a civil servant with the right to arrest a person (a senior policeman or a public prosecutor) or by the District Court.
If you are in a situation in which you are under a threat and you feel that you need a restraining order, you can get advice and help from the police, the social service authorities, the public prosecutor and voluntary organisations.

6. Mediation
Mediation in criminal cases is a service in which you and the offender are given the opportunity to meet confidentially with the help of an impartial conciliator to discuss the psychological and material harm caused to you by the offence. The conciliator will help you and the offender find a mutual agreement to redress the harm.
Mediation can only take place on a voluntary basis and it thus requires the parties’ free consent. Before the parties agree to conciliation, they must be informed about their rights in relation to conciliation and their position in the conciliation process. Each party has the right to withdraw its consent to participate in mediation at any time during the conciliation process.
A voluntary lay mediator, who has received training for the task, carries out the mediation.
If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator draws up a document about it. In cases of less serious crimes the agreement may result in closing the case. The agreement may also at a later stage lead to non-prosecution, waiving of sentence or to a more lenient punishment:
  • For petty offences where the prosecution lies with you a settlement reached through mediation usually closes the case. The prosecutor can no longer press charges if you have withdrawn your request for punishment. An exception to this rule may be a case where there are several offenders or victims or where the prosecution would be in the public interest.
  • In criminal cases subject to public prosecution, any agreement drawn up will be taken into account when a decision is made on whether to bring charges. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to prosecute. Even if the prosecutor decides to bring charges, a successful conciliation may be taken into account when the court decides on the sentence.
Assault, theft and criminal damage are the types of crime which are especially well suited for mediation. Other types of crime can also be dealt with through mediation, if allowed by the law. In cases of serious crime, however, the possibility of mediation is normally excluded.

7. Secondary right to prosecute
You can use your secondary right to prosecute and bring charges for an offence only if the public prosecutor has decided not to prosecute. It is advisable that you thoroughly read the prosecutor’s reasons for not bringing charges, so that you can consider what the chances are of your own charges being successful. It is also important to consider the financial risk you are taking if you are going to use your secondary right to prosecute. The fees for the trial, such as fees for the parties’ legal assistance, are usually paid for by the losing party.
You can bring charges by submitting a written application for a summons to the registry office of the district court. The application for a summons should indicate:
  • the identity of the offender;
  • the act for which the charges are being brought, the time and place of commission and any other information necessary to specify the act;
  • a description of the offence committed;
  • the demand for a penalty and for forfeiture, and the provisions on which they are based;
  • any other claims and the reasons for them;
  • the decision of the prosecutor not to prosecute or the decision of the police or the prosecutor not to conduct a pre-trial investigation or to stop or close an investigation;
  • a description of the evidence you wish to present and what you intend to prove with each piece of evidence; and
  • the circumstances on which the jurisdiction of the court is based, unless jurisdiction is otherwise evident in the application for a summons.
In addition, the application needs to indicate the court and the parties, including the contact information of the parties’ legal representatives, attorneys or counsels. The court must also be provided in a suitable manner with the contact information of the parties, witnesses and other persons to be heard. The application for a summons has to be signed by you or by the person who has drawn it up on your behalf. You need to provide the court with the written evidence referred to by you and the memorandum of the criminal investigation, if such investigation has been carried out during the case.
There is no specific time limit for your right to bring charges. Therefore, this right is in effect until the right to bring charges becomes time-barred.
Last update: 14/10/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

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