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Police and prosecutor conduct and investigation of human trafficking

Register number: OKV/1233/70/2021 OKV/1956/90/2021
Date of issue: 28.12.2021
Decision-maker: Deputy Chancellor of Justice
Subject: Prosecutor Police
Measure: Reprimand Opinion

According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the police have difficulties in identifying elements of human trafficking offences in pre-trial investigation. According to him, the National Police Board must take several measures to create conditions for conducting pre-trial investigations without undue delays.

In spring 2021, the media reported on the police's human trafficking investigations and their serious shortcomings. Based on this information, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice took the initiative to assess, among other things, whether the police have acted in these cases without delay and in accordance with the law and obligations. In his decision, he also examines the investigation of human trafficking offences and related offences, such as extortionate work discrimination, guidelines issued by the National Police Board, police training and adequacy of interpretation services, and cooperation between authorities.

The Deputy Chancellor of Justice reviewed a total of 50 pre-trial investigations conducted by the police. Several of these were still pending when the Deputy Chancellor of Justice gave his decision. Most of the pre-trial investigations examined by the Deputy Chancellor of Justice had been delayed. At the longest, a pre-trial investigation had lasted more than four years. There had been undue delays in almost every police department.

In the reports, the reasons for the delays in pre-trial investigations were limited investigation resources, researchers’ inexperience of human trafficking offences as well as problems with interpretation services and cooperation between authorities. However, significant delays have also been caused by the fact that the police have not identified essential elements of human trafficking offences and related offences. For this reason, in some cases the police have first investigated the suspected offence under other criminal titles.

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 because the reports show that there are obvious shortcomings in the competence of the police in human trafficking matters. Although the National Police Board reports that it has provided more training in human trafficking matters, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice’s investigation showed that it is not yet sufficient. According to the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the National Police Board and the Police University College must examine measures to strengthen the training on combating human trafficking and related offences.

The difficulties of the police in identifying the elements of a human trafficking offence in pre-trial investigations also affect the realisation of the victim's rights.

In the international and domestic fight against human trafficking, attention has been paid to how few human trafficking offences end up before the courts in Finland. The low number of cases and convictions also prevents human trafficking from becoming a visible and well-known legal phenomenon. This also prevents awareness of human trafficking from spreading as a phenomenon. In the current situation, the elements of the Criminal Code are not concretised and the ability to identify human trafficking in professional activities is not realised. This does not create sufficient interpretative practices for the use of the police and prosecutors or case-law guiding lower courts.

In his decision, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice issued 12 reprimands to the police concerning undue and 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 related offences 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.

The National Police Board's guidelines significantly steer and harmonise the practical work of the police. The Deputy Chancellor of Justice therefore asked the National Police Board to assess its internal oversight of legality measures aiming to ensure compliance with the pre-trial investigation legislation and its guidelines on combating human trafficking and to report on measures it takes to improve cooperation between police units and between police units and parties external to the police administration.