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9-year-old found walking alone along a motorway

Deputy-Ombudsman: Police did not adequately ascertain the child's situation

15.6.2009

Deputy-Ombudsman Jukka Lindstedt has criticised a senior constable belonging to the National Traffic Police for not having adequately looked into the matter when a nine-year-old was found walking alone along a motorway. The police officer had given the child a brief talking-to and then allowed it to continue on its way.

The child had left its home in Vantaa without permission one afternoon in February and set off to visit its father in Helsinki. The distance was about 15 kilometres. On the way, the child had crossed the motorway.  An outside person had seen the child on the motorway and reported the matter to the police. The senior constable from the traffic police who came to the scene found the child beside the motorway and asked his name and where he was going. When the child said he was going to his father and that everything was all right with it, the police patrol allowed him to continue on his way, only urging him to keep off the motorway.

In the view of Deputy-Ombudsman Jukka Lindstedt, the police officer should have ensured the child?s safety more proactively.  He should have found out why the child was walking such an exceptional route alone. The police could have contacted the child's guardians and found out what their view on the child's situation was. Something else that had apparently also not been asked was how long a distance the child had to go to reach his father.

Additional information will be provided by Legal Adviser Astrid Geisor-Goman, tel. + 358 (0)9 432 3365