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Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin criticises Orthodox Church procedure for suspending a vicar from service

Deputy-Ombudsman (AOA) Maija Sakslin criticises the way in which the Finnish Orthodox Church organised a hearing with a vicar concerning suspending him from service. The Deputy-Ombudsman finds that the 12 hours of preparation time for the hearing could not be considered compatible with the proper administrative procedure. The vicar received an invitation at his front door on Sunday evening at 8 pm to a hearing arranged for the next morning at 8 am.

According to the administrative proceedings a party should be provided with the opportunity to comment on the matter and to give an explanation for such claims and statements which may affect the outcome of the case.

The Deputy-Ombudsman finds that the vicar should have been offered a genuine opportunity to influence the deliberations and to familiarise himself with the relevant documents.

The Finnish Orthodox Church Administrative Council justified the church’s actions by saying that criminal trial legislation allows for the use of coercive measures in a very short consultation period or even without a hearing. The Deputy-Ombudsman points out that the suspension was not a coercive measure in a criminal trial.

According to the Act on the Orthodox Church, a bishop can suspend a priest from service for a maximum of six months, if the priest suspected of serious crimes while serving as a vicar.

Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin's decision EOAK/6254/2016 (in Finnish) is published on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi

For further information, contact legal adviser Mr Kimmo Metsä, tel. 09 432 3389.