Finland rebuked over lack of female police and lenient sex crimes punishments

New report from Council of Europe experts commends Finland for some measures, but lists a number of shortcoming which need to be fixed.

Flags outside Finlandia Hall for the Council of Europe Ministerial meeting, 17th May 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

The Council of Europe has sharply rebuked Finland over the low number of female police officers and lenient sentences for sex crimes offenders.

The criticism comes in a report by the Council’s experts about implementing the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

One of the key findings is that the low level of female police officers in Finland – only around 15% – means that although female victims of domestic violence or sex crimes are guaranteed to be interviewed by a woman police officer, this doesn’t happen in practice.

The report also points out the decreasing number of police officers overall in Finland, at just 137 officers per 100,000 inhabitants, which is “by far the lowest per capita ratio of police officers in Europe.”

While the Council of Europe report does praise Finland for setting up a good network of shelters for victims of domestic abuse, it says there should be more training for professionals in the criminal justice system including prosecutors and law enforcement officers.

At present, training is only voluntary and limited to domestic violence and sex offences. It does not include other forms of violence against women such as stalking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour crimes’.

Tougher sentences needed 

The new Council of Europe report, written after the experts spent five days in Finland assessing the situation, says there should be tougher punishments for sex abuse crimes, especially against children.

A recommendation to change the Finnish Criminal Code so that the definition of rape means ‘no consent given’. This would mean a charge of rape no longer required a violence or a threat of violence, but that any unlawful intercourse would be considered a crime.

Parliament is already considering a change in the law to reflect this, following a citizen’s initiative.

Another recommendation in the report is that judges take into consideration violence committed by one parent to another, when considering custody cases involving children.

Finland held the rotating six-month Council of Europe Presidency until the end of May 2019.