Arising from a complaint, Deputy-Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has adopted a position on restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of uninvolved parties during a rally competition. The complainant criticised the rally organisers for charging admission and thereby restricting freedom of movement and so-called everyman's right (the system of customary and statutory law under which citizens are guaranteed access to the natural environment) by excluding them from areas outside the actual venue for the rally.
According to the Deputy-Ombudsman, the starting and finishing points, service areas, grandstands and comparable places are areas in special use where the everyman's right does not apply. Within these areas, the organiser of a rally event has discretionary power to charge for admission and require that this charge be paid as a precondition for entry. Roads and potentially dangerous roadside areas, in turn, are closed under road closure orders and members of the public ought not to have access to them even by paying an admission charge.
On the basis of reports received by the Deputy-Ombudsman, it appears that State Provincial Offices and district police organisations have not, through decisions made under the provisions of the Road Traffic Decree and the Assembly Act, granted permission for admission charges to be levied with respect to areas outside the venue where an event is taking place nor approved consequent restrictions on freedom of movement nor limitation of the everyman?s right as set forth in the complaint. The levying of admission charges has not been ordered nor a position adopted on it in decisions, nor have restrictions on freedom of movement been ordered other than insofar as safety aspects associated with the arrangement of rallies have required that this be done.
What constitutes a problem is, however, that the area in which a rally is being organised is not always clearly demarcated in the terrain. This applies especially to the "forest stretches" of special stages that the area where the rally is taking place contains, because it is difficult to conceive of these, with the exception of closed parts of roads, as areas that have been reserved for special use. In the view of the Deputy-Ombudsman, a prerequisite for an area to be deemed one that has been reserved for special use is that it is somehow demarcated in the terrain or otherwise clearly recognisable as such. A rather concurrent view of the need for some kind of demarcation of the areas where events take place also emerged from the reports provided by the State Provincial Offices and police organisations.
A lack of demarcation may have led to the organisers of a rally trying to restrict movement under the everyman?s right also in places outside the area where the event was taking place, which amounts to interference with the freedom of movement guaranteed in Section 9 of the Constitution. For this reason, the area where the event takes place should be defined more clearly than at present already in the decisions which police organisation issue in response to notifications concerning public events.
Definition of the area where an event takes place is significant also from the perspective of the powers given to persons appointed to keep order at an event.
In the opinion of the Deputy-Ombudsman, decisions could include also instructions and guidelines concerning the physical demarcation of the event area. In addition, in order to safeguard the freedom of movement which is guaranteed as a fundamental right and the everyman's right, regulations and guidelines, of which the persons responsible for maintaining order and other officials at the event could be informed, could be issued under Section 20 of the Assembly Act. A regulation or guideline could specify, for instance, that in association with carrying out an event freedom of movement or the everyman's right must not be limited outside the area or time frame within which the event takes place.
The Deputy-Ombudsman has informed the Ministry of the Interior of his views concerning definition of the event area and of regulations and guidelines to be issued on the basis of the Assembly Act. He has asked the Ministry to forward copies of his decision to all State Provincial Boards and police services for their information.
Additional information will be provided by Senior Legal Officer Erkki Hännikäinen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3354.