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Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen: The police have difficulties identifying human trafficking offences

Publication date 2.2.2022 13.05 | Published in English on 21.4.2022 at 9.38
Press release

According to Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen, the police have difficulties in identifying elements of human trafficking offences in pre-trial investigations.

Manifestations of these difficulties include delays in the conduct of pre-trial investigations related to human trafficking carried out by the police. The Deputy Chancellor of Justice suggests in his decision several measures that the National Police Board should take in order to create conditions for conducting pre-trial investigations without undue delays.

Shortcomings in police investigations into suspected human trafficking offences were exposed in a news article published in the spring of 2021. Based on the information reported in this article, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice took the initiative to assess whether the police have complied with law, fulfilled their obligations and acted without delay in pre-trial investigations of human trafficking offences. 

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice reviewed a total of 50 pre-trial investigations conducted by different police departments across Finland for his inquiry. Several of these investigations were still pending when the Deputy Chancellor of Justice gave his decision regarding this inquiry. Most of the pre-trial investigations examined had been delayed. The longest-running pre-trial investigation had lasted over four years. This significant delay had been caused by the fact that the police had failed to identify elements of human trafficking offences and offences related to them. In some cases, the police had first investigated the suspected offences under other criminal titles. There were also several other reasons for the delays, including the limited investigation resources of the police as well as problems associated with translation services and cooperation between different authorities. 

According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the problem is serious and the measures taken so far by the National Police Board have been insufficient. While the National Police Board reports that it has provided more training on the prevention of human trafficking offences, the reports from police departments show that shortcomings in police skills are still evident. According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the National Police Board and the Police University College should consider whether police training on combating trafficking in human beings and offences related to it should be intensified. 

According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the Guidance issued by the National Police Board provide significant instructions for the practical work of the police and harmonise it. The role of the instructions in carrying out pre-trial investigations and the prioritisation of investigative resources should also be assessed.

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice also calls for internal oversight by the police in order to properly identify human trafficking offences and to closely monitor whether pre-trial investigations are conducted in a timely manner in order to bring about a real change in the current situation. The National Police Board must also otherwise create appropriate conditions for conducting pre-trial investigations to avoid undue delays caused by problems related to translation and interpretation services.

The National Police Board must also ensure smooth cooperation between different authorities. According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, for example delays in a pre-trial investigation occurred when another authority allegedly was not responding to inquiries by the police in charge of the matter, which cannot be considered acceptable. Effective cooperation between the authorities is particularly vital in matters such as human trafficking.

In his decision, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice issued 12 reprimands to the police concerning unlawful delays in pre-trial investigations. In 15 cases, he drew the police’s attention to the legislation on the conduct of pre-trial investigations and the required pre-trial investigation procedures. 

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice requested that the National Police Board submit, at the latest by 15 July 2022, information from each police department on the duration of pre-trial investigations of human trafficking cases and offences related to them from 1 January to 30 June 2022, and on pre-trial investigations pending on 1 July 2022 that have lasted longer than 12 months. He also requested a report on pre-trial investigations pending for more than 18 months and the reasons for these delays. He additionally asked the National Police Board to report on measures it intends to take concerning training, cooperation between authorities, instructions, organisation of interpretation and translation services and oversight of legality no later than 30 June 2022.

Translation from Finnish to English: Lingsoft Language Services Oy

More information

Referendary: Senior Legal Adviser Linda Harjutsalo, tel. +358 2951 62552, [email protected]