Sello shooting: widespread disapproval over inadequate penalties for firearms possession
Ministers disagree over residence permit practices
Anne Holmlund and Astrid Thors
In the Finnish legal praxis an illegal weapon is not much of a crime. Four in five penalties for such violations are just fines.
The average number of day-fines is 35, between a petty theft (14 day-fines) and a theft (43 day-fines). A motorist driving at the speed of 120 km/h in an area with a limit of 80 km/h is imposed 22 day-fines on average.
Only seldom is the perpetrator given a prison sentence for a firearms possession offence, even though the penal scale would allow two years in prison for ordinary crimes and four for aggravated offences.
The gunman in the Sello shopping mall shooting Ibrahim Shkupolli had previous convictions for firearms possession offences, and he had been sentenced to pay EUR 300 in fines for keeping a 7.65 calibre pistol ready to fire hidden in a boot in his home. The Espoo District Court had imposed 50 day-fines on him for the offence. He was also sentenced to fines for the 9 mm cartridges police found during a later house search.
National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero is astonished at the leniency of Shkupolli’s sentences.
”In practice, such punishments do not have any value. Apparently violent crimes carry fairly lenient penalties in Finland”, Paatero notes.
Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green League) considers that there is reason to look through the convictions given for the possession of illegal firearms, and if the policy is found to be too lenient, ”the legislator will have to send a message to courts to that effect”.
Brax says that she agrees with what Paatero said about the flimsy naturer of punishments for violent crimes. In fact, Brax has already taken action in order to reform the sentencing practice in cases of sexual abuse of children and domestic violence.
Professor of Law Kimmo Nuotio from the University of Helsinki stresses that instead of tightening the punishments for firearms possession offences in general, it would be better to consider each case separately.
”There could be unlicenced weapons in people’s homes for some reason. They do not all belong to criminals or to those who are planning to commit a homicide”, Nuotio argues.
The shooting incident at the Sello shopping centre in Espoo has also prompted demands to make deportations easier (see earlier article).
According to Minister of Migration Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party), no amendments to legislation are forthcoming. Instead, she hoped that the police would harmonise their practices when it comes to crimes committed by foreigners being reported to the immigration authorities.
National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero promised that the matter will be examined.
Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (National Coalition Party) proposed on Monday that if a foreigner is denied Finnish citizenship because of his or her record of criminal offences, there should always be a counter-check on whether or not such persons’ residence permits could be extended.
According to Minister Thors, there is no need for such a practice.
Thors says that one of the requirements for Finnish citizenship is that a foreigner has not committed a punishable act, while even a traffic violation can be an impediment to the granting of citizenship. However, it is essential that immigration authorities are notified of any information that can be relevant regarding potential deportation.
According to the Finnish Immigration Service, there were no grounds for deportation in Shkupolli’s case. He had been living in Finland for a long time and had been convicted only of minor offences, reported Heikki Taskinen, the head of the Immigration unit at the Finnish Immigration Service.
”Such a deportation decision would have also been turned down at the Administrative Court”, Taskinen concludes.
Many have argued in the wake of last Thursday's shootings that Shkupolli should have been deported back to his Kosovo home long ago, and that Finland's policies on deportation require considerable tightening.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Espoo shooting: why was Ibrahim Shkupolli not deported? (4.1.2010)
Shooting suspect previously convicted of firearms offences (31.12.2009)
Six dead after Espoo shopping mall shooting; gunman killed himself (31.12.2009)
Finnish Immigration Service