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Officer in charge of investigation must decide on release of information

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja admonishes police
 
When the police release information about an ongoing investigation, it must be the officer in charge of the investigation who decides what information is released and how, Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja points out. He was stating his position on two complaints relating to the issuance of information by the Helsinki police service.

An officer from the service who was in charge of an investigation had published a bulletin containing a surveillance camera picture of a person suspected of a sexual offence.  The Internet Police later published the picture on the Helsinki police service's Facebook pages. However, the officer in charge of the investigation had not chosen Facebook as the publication channel.

The Deputy-Ombudsman emphasises that the Decree on Criminal Investigations defines quite strictly what officers in a police service have the right to release information concerning the investigation into the public domain. The a priori requirement in the Decree is that these officers will be determined separately in each individual case.

"I find it unacceptable that any police officer at all can draft his or her own version of a bulletin intended for publication and chose the publication channel for it," he says. 
 
Too much told about a crime

The criticism expressed in another complaint relating to the same case was that the wrong person had been arrested on the basis of a picture published in a police bulletin.

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja took the view that there were grounds for publishing the picture in order to apprehend the suspected person.
 
By contrast, too much information about the way and circumstances in which the crime had been committed had been provided in the bulletin released by the officer in charge of the investigation. For this reason, the wrong person was in danger of being branded as the perpetrator of the crime, which had been described in detail.

Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Kristian Holman, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3368.