Deputy Prosecutor General: more funding needed to streamline court processes
Minister of Justice: Improvements coming
Finland’s Deputy Prosecutor General Jorma Kalske says that prosecutors, judges, and the prison service need to be guaranteed the resources that they need, as is the case for health care and social services.
“Citizens’ protection under the law finally needs to be raised to the level that it is a matter of equal concern along with basic services in general. Securing good legal services is a key operation of the state”, he says.
Kalske is in agreement with Eero Takkunen, Chief Judge at Helsinki District Court, who expressed concern on Monday about citizens’ protection under the law, as trials stretch out unreasonably. Takkunen called for closer cooperation between prosecutors and police as one way to bring more efficiency to court proceedings.
“From the prosecution service there are no impediments to thorough cooperation in investigations, so that all stones and stumps will be turned over. But it is a question of resources to a large extent”, Kalske says.
In his view, prosecutors could become an impediment to the handing of criminal cases, because there are so few of them. “District courts, which have reasonably adequate resources, demand that prosecutors should feed them with cases.”
According to Kalske, Finland should have at least 340 prosecutors. Now there are about 325, and next year there will probably be enough funding for only about 290, he calculates. Handling the WinCapita scam case alone could take the equivalent of about the amount of work that ten prosecutors do in a single year.
Kalske compares the prosecutor shortage with a hypothetical situation in which the Finnish police force would lose about 2,000 officers. “It would solve the problems of the court system”, he says, somewhat sarcastically. If police did not investigate crimes, there would be no need to handle them in court.
Kalske does not blame the situation on the Ministry of Justice. “The Minister of Justice cannot turn into money”, he says. Instead, he faults the attitude of society as a whole.
“It is true that prosecutors have plenty of work”, says Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green). “But they fail to mention that all of the resources that I have managed to increase through negotiations, have been prioritised specifically for prosecutors.”
She also points out that the average processing time of court cases has not increased in recent years; the problem is that there have been some exceptionally lengthy cases.
Brax says that money is not the only solution: she feels that legislation could also help.
Parliament recently passed a bill that would establish a fast lane of sorts for lengthy cases. The coming district court reform is aimed at greater efficiency. Efforts are underway to reduce the burden placed on courts of appeal, and the burden placed on prosecutors is to be eased by an upcoming reform in assessing fines.
More on this subject:
Correction: European court rules 88 times against Finland
Previously in HS International Edition:
Main suspect in WinCapita pyramid scheme lived ascetic life as a fugitive (19.12.2008)
Helsinki District Court Chief Judge criticises long duration of criminal cases (5.5.2009)
Finnish Prosecution Service: Deputy Prosecutor General Jorma Kalske