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Pre-trial investigations concerning children to be conducted without delay

In his decisions concerning two separate complaints, Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen urges the Oulu Police Department to pay attention to the duration of pre-trial investigations of criminal offences in which the suspects or victims are children.

In the first of the cases, both the suspect and the injured party were 14 years old. The law states that if a person under the age of 15 is suspected of a criminal act, the criminal investigation shall be conducted urgently. However, the injured party had been questioned nine months and the suspect more than 18 months after the offence had been reported, after which the pre-trial investigation had been closed. According to the Ombudsman, this did not meet the requirement of urgency prescribed by law, particularly as the suspected offence was a serious criminal offence.

In the other case, a teaching assistant was suspected of having assaulted an 8-year-old child. The pre-trial investigation took two years, which even the police department admitted was far too long.

Neither of the investigations was extensive or difficult in terms of content. The delays were caused by the extremely difficult employment situation at the Oulu Police Department, which had also come up in the inspection carried out in the police department by the Office of the Ombudsman in spring 2019. The police department had already taken several measures to improve the situation. The Ombudsman requested that in its forthcoming inspection of the police department, the National Police Board should pay special attention to the situation of pre-trial investigations of offences in which the suspects or victims are children, and report on this to the Ombudsman. 

Decisions 1084/2019 and 3462/2019 by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen are available in full in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi 

For further details on the matter, contact Juha Haapamäki, Principal Legal Adviser, on +358 9 432 3334.