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Criminal investigation took years in Vantaa

 Right to bring criminal proceedings lapsed

24.2.2010

A criminal investigation by the Itä-Uusimaa police in Vantaa into an alleged assault in police cells took nearly five years. Owing to official negligence, the prosecutor did not have time to consider charges before the right to institute criminal proceedings lapsed. Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja issued a reprimand to the district court prosecutor who had headed the investigation and was later removed from office.

Criminal investigation at a halt for over four-and-a-half years

A man of foreign background reported in November 2002 that policemen had assaulted him while he was under arrest at Itäkeskus police station. A criminal investigation was immediately launched, the involved parties were questioned and a technical investigation was conducted at the place where the incident had allegedly taken place.
 
After this, nothing in practice happened in the criminal investigation for over four-and-a-half years. It was only when the officer investigating the case and the officer in charge of the investigation had been replaced that two policemen were questioned as suspects in summer 2007.

In October 2007 the case was referred for consideration of charges to the Helsinki public prosecution office, where it was assigned to a prosecutor two days before it became statute-barred. The prosecutor was then on sick leave, whereby he did not have even a theoretical possibility of taking a stance on the matter before the right to bring charges lapsed.

An investigation must be effective

If there are grounds to suspect that policemen have assaulted someone in custody, an effective investigation must be conducted without undue delay. Negligence on the part of the authorities that results in the right to bring charges lapsing is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Most blameworthy was the officer who conducted the investigation. No progress was made in the over four years that he was responsible. The suspected crime was not difficult to investigate or extensive in scope. The then district court prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation had been, in the Deputy-Ombudsman's assessment, regrettably passive.

In addition, more effective measures to speed up the investigation should have been taken by their superiors as well as especially those in the Itä-Uusimaa police service. The Helsinki public prosecution office, in turn, had not taken note of the urgency of the matter.

Criminal investigation of so-called police crimes being monitored

The Deputy-Ombudsman has decided on his own in initiative to investigate more generally how expeditiously suspicions of crimes committed by police personnel are investigated and whether supervision and tracking of these investigations are appropriately arranged. A tracking request has been sent to the Office of the Prosecutor General, which has been asked for a report by 10.6.2010.

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