General information about complaints and filing a complaint
A complaint is a written notice or request for action submitted to the Chancellor of Justice. A complaint describes the activities of an authority, public official or other person performing a public duty that the complainant considers to be unlawful.
A complaint is not a means of appealing a decision made. A complaint is a measure that can launch a legality oversight procedure by the Chancellor of Justice.
You can write the complaint yourself in a free form. You do not have to use the help of a counsel.
The complaint must be written in clear and appropriate language.
The complaint must contain clear and concise information on which authority or other person or body performing a public duty has acted unlawfully. You must also note how and when the unlawful activities have occurred and on which grounds the activities have been unlawful. Any appendices attached to the complaint will supplement and clarify the complaint. Simply referring to appendices is not enough. Expressions of opinion are not processed as complaints.
For example, the following complaint text is inadequate and inappropriate: “You need to investigate this matter! Read the attached news article on how x operates.“
You can write a complaint by hand. However, the handwriting must be clear enough to make sure that the text is intelligible.
The investigation of a complaint is free of charge to the complainant.
Investigating the complaint will go faster if you attach the most important relevant documents to your complaint. Such documents may include:
a decision on the matter by a court or other authority
response to an inquiry received from the authority
an application or inquiry sent to an authority for which no reply has been received.
When filing a complaint on behalf of another party, it is recommended to attach a power of attorney to the complaint document.
The complaint is assigned a case identifier, i.e. a record number that identifies the case in the case management system. A record number is usually also given to any decisions and other documents attached to the complaint.
The Office of the Chancellor of Justice serves its customers in Finnish and Swedish. Complaints may also be written in the Sámi language.
The office also aims to process complaints made in English. However, the decision on the complaint and related materials will not be translated into English.
The right to complain does not depend on your nationality.
As a rule, anonymous complaints will not be investigated. If an anonymous complaint concerns an issue that requires an investigation, the matter can be investigated as a Chancellor’s initiative at the Office of the Chancellor of Justice. In such a case, a precondition for investigating the matter is that investigating it is in the public interest.
The Act on the Openness of Government Activities is observed in the processing of complaints. As a rule, complaints are public documents.
For example, a complaint can be disclosed to a journalist if it contains no secret information and if the disclosure of the information does not interfere with the investigation of the matter. Under the Act, information concerning issues such as the complainant’s health or social benefits is always secret information. For its other parts, the complaint is public at the latest when the related case has been resolved.
The name of the complainant will be known to the subject of the complaint if the subject is heard as part of the complaint process. The complainant’s name can be kept secret if the disclosure of this information would jeopardise the implementation of the supervision of legality. Based on case-by-case consideration, the name of the complainant may also be kept secret from the subject of the complaint if this is critical to the public or private interest.
Before resolving the matter, the publicity of the complaint documents is considered on a case-by-case basis. The decisions are published anonymously on the website, which means that the complainant and, if necessary, the subject of the complaint can no longer be identified from the decision.
The duration of the processing of complaints depends on the nature of the matter. The aim is that the processing time does not exceed one year. If the topic of the complaint does not fall within the competence of the Chancellor of Justice, the matter will be resolved as soon as possible.
You can enquire about the stage of processing a complaint at the registry of the Office of the Chancellor of Justice at [email protected]
You can withdraw a complaint in writing; a verbal notification by telephone is not enough. If a decision is made to stop the processing of a complaint, the complainant will be informed.
A submitted complaint can be supplemented with additional writings. Any additional writings must be submitted to the registry of the Office of the Chancellor of Justice.
Various complaint issues and powers of the Chancellor of Justice
The Chancellor of Justice will not investigate a matter that is more than two years old without a special reason.
You can file the complaint with either the Chancellor of Justice or the Parliamentary Ombudsman based on your own choice as they have largely the same duties and powers.
Provisions on the division of duties between the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman are laid down in an Act. For this reason, the Chancellor of Justice does not usually deal with complaints concerning the Defence Forces, deprivation of liberty or institutions to which an individual has been involuntarily committed. In such cases, the Chancellor of Justice will transfer the complaint to the Ombudsman.
The Chancellor of Justice and Parliamentary Ombudsman will not investigate the same matter at the same time. As a rule, the guardian of the law that received the complaint first will examine the complaint.
The two guardians of the law do not supervise each other’s activities. If the Ombudsman has investigated the complaint, the Chancellor of Justice will not reconsider the complaint concerning the same matter without special reason.
The Chancellor of Justice is not an appeals authority. A complaint addressed to the Chancellor of Justice is not an alternative appeal procedure. The Chancellor of Justice cannot change or revoke a decision issued by a court or other authority. If the complainant wishes a previously issued decision to be appealed, they must appeal against the received decision by following the appeal instructions attached to the decision.
The Chancellor of Justice will not initiate proceedings on a matter when the decision on the matter can be appealed through a regular appeal process (the appeal period has not expired). The appeal procedure follows the appeal instructions provided by the issuing authority.
No, you cannot. The Chancellor of Justice will not reopen a matter decided by the Deputy Chancellor of Justice. The Chancellor of Justice, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice and the substitute for the Deputy Chancellor of Justice have the same power to resolve matters that fall within their area of responsibility and they do not have the competence to assess each other’s decisions.
In practice, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice makes a decision on most complaints. The Deputy Chancellor of Justice independently decides on matters that are his responsibility.
The Chancellor of Justice does not provide legal advice to private persons. If such advice is needed, private persons may contact a legal aid office, an advocate or other counsel. In addition, the Chancellor of Justice does not issue legal statements to private individuals. The Chancellor of Justice does not act as a counsel or guardian for private persons.
As a rule, the Chancellor of Justice does not deal with a matter that is currently being processed by a competent authority.
The Chancellor of Justice does not have the competence to intervene in the content of acts adopted by Parliament.
The Chancellor of Justice supervises bill drafting in advance. The aim of the supervision carried out during the bill drafting process is to ensure that there is no reason for objections concerning the proposals submitted to the Government for decision-making from the perspective of the supervision of legality.
It is not up to the Chancellor of Justice to convey information between private citizens and authorities. Any questions concerning the processing of matters should be posed directly to the relevant authority.
The Chancellor of Justice will also not forward documents to other authorities at the request of complainants; instead, the complainant must personally submit these to the relevant authority.
The Chancellor of Justice does not have the power to intervene in the activities of an individual advocate, public legal aid attorney or licensed legal counsel or to impose disciplinary sanctions on them. The competent authority for such matters is the Disciplinary Board operating in connection with the Finnish Bar Association.
A complaint on the activities of individual advocates, public legal aid attorneys and licensed legal counsels may be directly submitted to the Disciplinary Board that operates in connection with the Finnish Bar Association.
The Chancellor of Justice will not intervene in a case pending before a court. The Chancellor of Justice can also not order judicial proceedings to be suspended or for the judge assigned to a case to be replaced.
Investigating a complaint and preparing a decision
A Referendary working for the Office of the Chancellor of Justice investigates the complaint and prepares a proposed decision. The decision on the complaint is made by the Chancellor of Justice, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice or the substitute for the Deputy Chancellor of Justice. All three decision-makers have the same power to make decisions on complaints that are part of their duties.
Obtaining documents and information
For the purpose of investigating a complaint matter, documents and information related to the matter can be obtained from an authority or public official.
Request for clarification
For the purpose of investigating a complaint matter, a request for clarification may be sent to an authority or a public official. In the clarification, the authority will present its views on its procedure.
Clarification may be requested directly from the relevant authority/public official or a higher authority.
The request for clarification includes setting a deadline by which the clarification must be submitted to the Chancellor of Justice.
If the clarification is incomplete, further information may be requested from the authority.
Request for an opinion
An opinion includes a legal assessment of the procedure of the authority or public official that the complaint concerns.
The opinion may be requested from a higher authority or from other authorities or experts.
A complaint matter can also be referred to a pre-trial investigation to be carried out by the police. A pre-trial investigation can be carried out when there is reason to suspect an offence.
The Chancellor of Justice is entitled to receive any necessary information from authorities and other public bodies for the purpose of ensuring the legality of their actions.
The complainant may be given an opportunity to provide a reply if this is necessary for processing the matter. In the reply, the complainant gives a written answer and expresses views on the investigations and statements obtained for the complaint matter. Providing a reply is voluntary. The complaint is resolved even if no reply is given.
Decision on a complaint
The decision on the complaint matter is made by the Chancellor of Justice, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice or the substitute for the Deputy Chancellor of Justice. The decision-makers decide on complaints that are part of their duties independently and do not assess each other’s decisions.
The decision explains what kind of clarifications have been obtained to resolve the complaint. The decision also gives reasons to how the decision has been made.
Complaints are resolved
by decision of the Chancellor of Justice / Deputy Chancellor of Justice
by a response letter from the Chancellor of Justice / Deputy Chancellor of Justice or a referendary from the Office of the Chancellor of Justice.
The complaint will be resolved by a decision if the complaint will result in legal consequences. Among other things, the issued decision may lead to prosecution, a reprimand, making a proposal or giving an opinion.
A response letter will be sent to the complainant if the complaint will not result in consequences.
No decision will be sent to the complainant if
the complaint is an expression of opinion
the complaint contains only a notification or copy of a document
the complaint is so incoherent or illegible
a recurring complaint repeats the content of previous complaints and provides no new information, and the complainant has already been informed that such communication will no longer be replied to
the complaint is anonymous, and there is no reason to investigate the complaint as the Chancellor’s initiative.
A response letter may be signed by the referendary alone if
this is a response to an individual enquiry
the complaint concerns a matter that has already been resolved and that has not been supported by new justifications
the Chancellor of Justice or the Deputy Chancellor of Justice has so decided, for example, in a case where the response does not contain a legal opinion.