The preventive powers of the police should be assessed
The Ministry of the Interior should take the preventive powers of the police under review for further development, according to the proposal of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen. The current regulatory framework apparently does not fully cover all necessary eventualities.
The Ombudsman investigated a matter concerning a possible threat against a school. The police accessed the school in question and brought the complainant to the police station for questioning. It was quickly established, however, that the rumour was false, and the complainant was released.
According to the report received by the Ombudsman, the police did not suspect the complainant of an offence. The main objective had been to ascertain whether or not the threat against the school was real and, for this reason, it was deemed necessary to interview the complainant. As such, there were reasonable grounds for the questioning. However, the law does not provide for taking a person into custody simply for this kind of questioning.
The need for improved legislation must be reviewed
The Ombudsman took the opportunity to comment more generally on the sufficiency of legislation in potential danger situations, such as the one now investigated. He concurred with the statement issued by the police in that the Police Act mainly caters for resolving isolated incidents and events. However, persons who raise concerns about possible violent behaviour, often demand attention over a longer period of time. The grey area between planning, which is not punishable, and the punishable preparation of a crime has proved complicated from the perspective of policing.
The Ombudsman finds that, for example, cases where the aim is only to determine whether a person forms a danger to others are problematic, particularly if the person is uncooperative.
This area is difficult to regulate. Preventive actions can seldom be based on provable facts that could form the basis for assessing what might happen if the police do not intervene.
The Ombudsman has submitted his opinion to the Ministry of the Interior for possible legislative improvements.
Decision 2186/2019 has been published on the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi
Further information: Juha Haapamäki, Principal Legal Adviser, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3334.