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A reprimand issued to the police concerning searches of domiciles

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has published three decisions in which he criticises the actions of the police when carrying out searches of domiciles. One of the searches was carried out because of a suspected offence and the other two in order to find a defendant who was ordered to be brought before a district court.

A written decision on searches of premises is needed

All these searches of domiciles had been carried out by an oral decision. This, as such, is possible in urgent situations. In the cases that the complaints concerned, however, only the search relevant to a suspected offence could be considered urgent.

In any case, the law requires that a written decision on a search of a domicile be produced after the search if there was no time to do so beforehand. No written decision had been made in any of the three cases before or after the search.

The Ombudsman also reminded the police that minutes should always be kept of a search of a domicile.

Uncertainty about the applicable legislation

When the complaints were investigated, it turned out the police were unclear about which act applies to searches for persons to be brought before the court. According to the Deputy-Ombudsman, the Coercive Measures Act shall also be complied with in these searches. The National Police Board concurred with this view.

The Deputy-Ombudsman also launched an own-initiative investigation to establish whether the legislative base concerning executive assistance to be given to courts is adequate. The police have considered the situation unsatisfactory.

Proposal for redress

In one of the cases, the police had conducted a search of a domicile in the home of the complainant's mother at 6 a.m. in order to reach the complainant. However, the police did not produce the special reason required by law for a search carried out at such an early hour. Additionally, another search had been conducted in the complainant's home three hours later. When the complaint was investigated, it turned out that because of a misunderstanding at the police command centre, this search had been assigned to a patrol even if no decision had actually been made on it. Additionally, legal procedures had not been complied with in all respects in the searches.

The Deputy-Ombudsman proposes to the State Treasury that the government compensate the complainant for these interferences with the privacy of their home.

Further information

The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja's decisions no 2773/4/15, 4281/5/15 and 72/4/16 was published on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at oikeusasiamies.fi.

Further information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Juha Haapamäki, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3334.