2 - My rights during the trial
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How can I be involved in the trial?
You will be summoned to the main hearing if your presence in court is necessary to clarify certain facts or if you have a civil claim (1), which is not pursued by the prosecutor.
During the trial at the District Court (court of first instance) you have the right to support the charges brought by the public prosecutor or by another victim and present new evidence in support of those charges.
After charges have been brought, you can make a civil claim against the offender, if the court permits.
You may also resume the prosecution, which has been abandoned by the public prosecutor or by another victim. In this case you need to notify the court in writing within 30 days of receiving the notice of the abandonment. If you do not resume the prosecution, you will lose your right to bring charges.
The court sessions are normally open to the public, although cases for some offences (sexual offences, etc.) can be heard “behind closed doors” (completely or partially closed to the public). You as a victim can always be present.
You can usually take part in the trial proceedings by putting questions, giving a final speech, introducing, presenting or requesting evidence, or cross-examining witnesses or expert witnesses. If you have supported the charges brought by the public prosecutor you have a similar right as the prosecutor to present evidence, etc.
If you wish to present new evidence during the main hearing, which has not been mentioned before, you have to notify the court before the main hearing and state what you intend to prove by this evidence. The evidence should thus be presented before the main hearing. You can still present new evidence during the main hearing, but in this case the main hearing might be postponed so that the offender can be fully informed of the new evidence. You may be required to pay the expenses caused to the other party by such a postponement.
You have the right to be informed about the contents of the trial documents (2), even those that are not public. However, there are some types of documents that may not be disclosed to parties in the trial. These may include, for example, your contact information in cases where non-disclosure is necessary to protect your safety, or trial documents containing information about the deliberations of the court.
You may be represented by an attorney or counsel (3). At the main hearing, your counsel can present your claims on your behalf, and refer to the facts and evidence that support them.
You may seek compensation from the offender for the costs you have incurred in relation to the trial. You need to make a request for compensation of legal costs before the end of the main hearing. If you are granted legal aid (4) and have been personally summoned to the court, the compensation for your travel costs is paid by the State.
Before the court, either Finnish or Swedish is used, and the court issues its decisions in Finnish or Swedish. If you do not understand the language used in court you have the right to interpretation.
What are my rights as a witness?
In Finland, as the victim of the crime you cannot be questioned as a witness. Instead, you may be heard for the purpose of collecting evidence.
The court may restrict the presence of the public during open proceedings if this is necessary to protect you or another person related to you from a threat to your or another person’s life or health.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are under 18 years of age you are considered a child.
If your interests and the interests of your parents differ you will be represented by somebody else. Legal assistance is also available to you.
If there is reason to believe that you as a child are a victim of a sexual or violent crime and your statement has already been recorded on video during the pre-trial investigation, it may not be necessary to give a statement again during the trial.
If you have not reached the age of 15 years or if you are mentally ill the court has to consider some additional circumstances when deciding whether you may be heard: the hearing should not cause you suffering or other harm that can injure you or your development. The hearing may take place outside the court room and/or the court may appoint a support person (5) for you.
Can I receive legal aid?
If you have minimal or no income and assets legal aid is free of charge.
If you are resident in Finland, or a citizen of a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area working or seeking work in Finland, you are entitled to legal aid. In addition, legal aid is available, if your case will be heard by a Finnish court of law or, if there is another special reason for legal aid to be provided.
If you receive legal aid you will not have to pay the court fees and other similar payments.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offence or other offence of serious violence, the court may appoint an attorney (3). and/or a support person (5) for you during the pre-trial investigation and the trial, regardless of your income. The attorney will helps you with the legal matters and the support person will provide psychological support. Their fees and expenses are paid by the State.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
In a criminal case that concerns a particularly sensitive aspect of your private life, the court may order that your identity as a victim be kept secret from the public.
In some cases you may be heard in the main hearing without appearing in person, with the use of a video conference or other appropriate technical means of communication, if the court decides that this is suitable and necessary to protect your life or health of the life or health of a person close to you.
Generally, the offender has the right to be present at the trial. However, you may be heard in the main hearing without the presence of the offender or any other person, if the court decides that this is appropriate and necessary:
- to protect your life or health, or
- if you would otherwise not reveal what you know about the case.
It is possible to restrict your contacts with the offender during the court proceedings if this is needed for security reasons. For example, a separate waiting area can be arranged for you. It is also possible to place a screen between you and the offender in the courtroom.
Police officers have the right to remove anyone who unlawfully disturbs your domestic peace or to detain in custody the person causing the disturbance. The detention could last as long as the disturbance is likely to recur, but no longer than 24 hours. Police officers can remove a person from other premises if they decide that he or she may commit an offence against your life, health, liberty, home or property.
It is also possible for you to apply for a restraining order (6).
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
You can claim damages from the offender by submitting a request to the court if you have not submitted your claim during the pre-trial investigation. You can request the public prosecutor to present your civil claim while the case is pending in the court of first instance. However, the chances that the prosecutor will decline your request are greater at this stage than the stage before bringing the charges. In such cases the court may allow you to present your civil claim yourself.
If the prosecutor brings charges against the offender, your civil claim (1) may be dealt with as part of the criminal case. The claim for damages is usually considered together with the charges, but it can also be handled in separate civil proceedings.
It is possible to receive compensation from the State for personal injury, damage to property or other financial loss caused by the crime. You need to submit an application to the State Treasury. Any compensation received by you from the offender will be deducted from the State compensation. Any compensation that you have received or you are clearly entitled to receive according to other laws or an insurance policy will also be deducted.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
Mediation (7) is usually initiated before the charges have been brought, but it is also possible during the trial even though conciliation at this stage is less common. The decision whether to refer the case to mediation is made by the local mediation office. The agreement reached through mediation may lead to waiving of the sentence or to a more lenient punishment.
During the trial, there are also opportunities to reach a settlement on your civil claim (1).
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
You have the right to an interpreter free of charge if you do not know any of the official national languages in Finland (Finnish or Swedish) well enough. Important documents may also be translated for you free of charge.
If you are a victim of human trafficking and do not live in Finland, you have the right to receive special help available to victims of human trafficking. This help may include housing, social and health services, legal counselling and assistance, security arrangements and other forms of support that you may need. There are reception centres in Joutseno and Oulu which are responsible for the administration of the services for victims of human trafficking.
The suspicion alone that you could be a victim of human trafficking is enough to allow you to benefit from these services. If you illegally reside in Finland you may be granted a reflection period and, under certain conditions, a residence permit. The most important condition is that you cooperate with the authorities to catch the persons suspected of trafficking. Before deciding whether you want to cooperate with the authorities, you may be granted a reflection period of at least 30 days and a maximum of six months.
The Ombudsman for Minorities also offers legal advice and assistance. Help is also provided by many civic organisations or associations, such as Victim Support Finland, Multicultural Women's Association - Monika and Pro Centre Finland.
- Act on the Publicity of Court Proceedings in General Courts 370/2007 (Laki oikeudenkäynnin julkisuudesta yleisissä tuomioistuimissa 370/2007; Lag om offentlighet vid rättegång i allmänna domstolar 370/2007) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Act on the Openness of Government Activities 621/1999 (Laki viranomaisten toiminnan julkisuudesta 621/1999; Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet 621/1999) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Act on Compensation for Crime Damage (Rikosvahinkolaki 1204/2005; Brottsskadelag 1204/2005) – in Finnish and Swedish
- Language Act 423/2003 (Kielilaki 423/2003; Språklag 423/2003) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Sámi Language Act 1086/2003 (Saamen kielilaki 1086/2003; Samisk språklag 1086/2003) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Legal Aid Act 257/2002 (Oikeusapulaki 257/2002; Rättshjälpslag 257/2002) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Code of Judicial Procedure 4/1734 (Oikeudenkäymiskaari 4/1734; Rättegångs Balk 1734/4)– in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Act 1015/2005 on Conciliation in Criminal and Certain Civil Cases (Laki rikosasioiden ja eräiden riita-asioiden sovittelusta 1015/2005; Lag om medling vid brott och i vissa tvister 1015/2005)– in English, Finnish and Swedish
- Criminal Procedure Act 689/1997 (Laki oikeudenkäynnistä rikosasioissa 689/1997; Lag om rättegång i brottmål 689/1997) – in English, Finnish and Swedish
State Legal Aid Office or another private lawyer. If legal aid is granted to you, the State will pay the fee of the attorney in full or in part, depending on your income and available means. The work of the attorney can be compensated up to a maximum of 80 hours. However, in special cases the court may grant a dispensation from this limit. Generally, legal aid is not provided if you have a legal expenses insurance that covers the case. Such insurance cover may be included for example in a household insurance policy, a labour union policy or a farming policy. You can apply for legal aid at a State Legal Aid Office. The legal aid office will verify your financial situation. You need to present evidence of your financial situation and information about the case for which you ask for legal aid. A public legal aid attorney employed at the legal aid office, a private lawyer or another jurist can provide legal aid. Legal aid may be granted from the date of the application or, if the relevant criteria are met, also retroactively to cover expenses already incurred in relation to the case. Legal aid is available at all stages of the proceedings. Legal aid is granted on the basis of your monthly available means and wealth. This is calculated through your income, expenditures and maintenance liability. The available means of your spouse are usually also taken into consideration. You as recipient of legal aid have to pay a percentage of the fee of the attorney (basic deductible). The percentage depends on your monthly available means. If you are a single person with monthly available means under 600 euro you can be granted legal aid free of charge. When your monthly available means exceed 1,300 euro (if you are single), or 1200 euro per person (if you are in a couple), legal aid will not be granted.
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Last update: 14/10/2018