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Undue delays in the pre-trial investigation of a minister's suspected offence

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja criticises Helsinki Police Department for its actions in the investigation of suspected fraud by Hanna Mäntylä, who was Minister of Social Affairs and Health at the time. Helsinki Police Department failed to carry out the interview for which Lapland Police Department had requested executive assistance without undue delay. Because of this delay, the pre-trial investigation record was finished so late that consideration of charges became time-barred.

Offence reported by an unidentified person

On 8 July 2015, an unknown person reported Hanna Mäntylä, who was the Minister of Social Affairs and Health at the time, for suspected fraud. As the dates on which the offence was committed were recorded 30 September 2009 - 3 November 2010. On these grounds, the proceedings would have become time-barred on 3 November 2015.

Helsinki Police Department's executive assistance was delayed

On 17 July 2015, it was agreed in a telephone conversation with an investigator from Lapland Police Department that Helsinki Police Department would provide executive assistance and interview the suspect. The request for executive assistance had been communicated to Helsinki Police Department by telephone in advance. The request was logged at Helsinki Police Department on 22 July 2015.

The delay at Helsinki Police Department was partly due to the fact that the police allowed the suspect and her assistant deal with the matter in their own time. The first interview, which was arranged for 18 August 2015, was cancelled by request of the suspect's assistant. The Deputy-Ombudsman notes that due to the risk of the case becoming time-barred, which was known to the police, another date should have been immediately arranged for interviewing the suspect.

In part, the delay was also caused by the fact that the investigator assigned to provide executive assistance in Helsinki was on annual leave for two weeks.

The Deputy-Ombudsman found that the risk of the investigated offence becoming time-barred should be taken into consideration in the arrangements for an investigation. An investigator's annual leave is not an acceptable justification when assessing an undue delay in a pre-trial investigation. Arrangements should have been made for another person to take over the investigation while the designated investigator was on annual leave.

The suspect was interviewed on 15 October 2015, and the pre-trial investigation record was completed on 30 October 2015, as a result of which the case became time-barred.

The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja's decision 1065/4/16 was published (in finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at oikeusasiamies.fi.

Further information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Mikko Eteläpää, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3359.