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Compensation for unfounded deprivations of liberty

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has in two recent decisions criticised the Helsinki and Varsinais-Suomi police services for having deprived persons of liberty without sufficient cause. He has recommended that they consider compensation to the complainants pointing to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Helsinki a person had been taken into custody on the basis of the Police Act and in Varsinais-Suomi (Turku) the complainant had been arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Insufficient grounds for deprivation of liberty

In the Helsinki case, Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja is especially critical of the fact that the person taken into custody in the small hours of the morning had not been released until late in the following afternoon.

The explanations provided by the police did not present sufficient grounds for keeping the person in custody for so long. Nor was it lawful that the police had destroyed the person's alcoholic drink.  

In the Turku case, the complainant was suspected of burglary because his DNA was on a beverage which was found near the crime scene. However, only two boxes of ci-gars had been reported stolen, and no beverages at all.

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja criticised the officer in charge of the investigation for or-dering the arrest. The suspect had been under arrest for 23 hours. 

Deprivation of liberty without cause is unlawful

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja points out that if there is no acceptable reason for depri-vation of liberty, it is contrary to the Constitution of Finland and the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the latter, everyone who is deprived of liberty in contravention of it is entitled to just satisfaction.

The State's liability under the Tort Liability Act is largely limited. However, the right to effective remedies in cases of violations of human rights is guaranteed by the Convention on Human Rights. According to Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja it is possible in some cases to base compensation on the Convention. He points out that some judgements by the Supreme Court indicate that it is possible to pay compensation for violations of fundamental and human rights also without the specific support of national legislation.

The Deputy-Ombudsman has urged the Helsinki and Varsinais-Suomi police services to consider compensation to the complainants for the deprivation of their liberty. In the Helsinki case, he recommends also compensation for the alcoholic beverage that was unlawfully destroyed.  

He has asked the police services to inform him, by 14.9.2012, of the measures they have taken.

Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Juha Haapamäki, tel. +358(0)9 4321.