Racist crime rarely leads to conviction in Finland
175 racist crimes in Helsinki, but only six convictions
A racist crime rarely leads to a conviction in Finland.
According to a report compiled last year by the Police College of Finland, 669 crimes with a suspected racist motive were entered into the police data system in 2005. Half of the entries had been marked with a police racist crime code. The rest were discovered based on the classification system used by those compiling the report.
The compilers classified those incidents where people were subjected to crime because their skin colour, race, or ethnic origin was different from that of the offender as racist crimes.
The classification is broader than the one used in the section of the criminal law that deals with racist crimes.
The Police College of Finland researchers did not look into how many of the reported racist crimes led to charges or a conviction in a court of law. This could not be directly read from the Statistics Finland judicial statistics for 2005, either. However, the idea of combining the two would be one way to observe how many crimes of a racist nature in general lead to a conviction in Finland on a yearly basis.
Helsingin Sanomat commissioned Statistics Finland to compile a list of all the convictions of crimes of a racist character in 2005, based on three articles of the Penal Code. These deal with inciting hatred against other ethnicities, discrimination on grounds of race or colour, and hardening a conviction because of the crime’s racist nature.
The result was as was to be expected: in Finland as a whole, 25 individuals were convicted in 17 separate cases, based on the racism articles. Twelve of them received fines because of discrimination in some shape or form. Five charges of discrimination were dismissed. In a total of thirteen cases the judgement meted out was hardened because of the crime’s racist nature.
Though the Police College of Finland report and the Statistics Finland survey on court judgements are not directly comparable, based on the two one can still draw the conclusion that the number of racist crimes committed in Finland far exceeds the number of convictions and sentences handed down.
Since only five racist crime cases were dismissed by a court of law in 2005, it can be deduced that the majority of racist offences never reach the level of court proceedings.
According to the report, in Helsinki 175 criminal acts of a racist nature – more than anywhere else in the country - were reported to the police in 2005. The same year, only six individuals were convicted of such crimes in the Finnish capital.
"These are hairy figures that call for further examinination", says chief district prosecutor Heikki Poukka from the Helsinki District Prosecutor’s office.
Chief Inspector Mia Poutanen from the Ministry of the Interior’s Police Department says that majority of the crimes with a suspected racist motive reported to the police are assaults of various levels of severity, vandalism, defamation, and illegal threats.
Of these, vandalism and minor assaults are the sort of crimes that are reported to police in far greater numbers than those that eventually lead to a court conviction.
Often such cases remain unsolved simply because the perpetrator is not caught. Another alternative path is that the parties concerned agree to a form of arbitration during the investigation process, and the mater becomes the kind of offence that would not lead to court unless the victim specifically wishes.
Seven out of ten crimes with a racist motive take place against foreigners or persons of foreign background.
In ten per cent of cases the victim was a member of the Roma minority.
More than 85 per cent of those suspected of racially-motivated crimes were men, and of these men, nearly half were between the ages of 15 and 24.
Half of the crimes listed took place in the southern provinces of Finland, where the bulk of the population who have moved here from abroad are to be found.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Assault is the most common racist crime (30.8.2005)
Immigrants get fines following Kajaani pizzeria brawl last year (22.11.2006)