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Thursday’s papers: Rape records, school holiday reshuffle, and minister’s road reform ordeal continues

Where are rapists most likely to get caught? That would be Oulu, according to a major daily. A Tampere-based paper looks at a proposed trial to re-organise school vacations and a leading tabloid continues to track Transport Minister Anne Berner's Via Dolorosa in her failed bid to radically overhaul the road transport system.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Is there a link between where rapists strike and their likelihood of being brought to justice? Biggest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat sifted through criminal data and found that police in Oulu had solved 85.4 percent of rape cases between 2014 and 2016 - the highest rate among the country’s 10 largest cities.

The data showed that crimestoppers in Lahti performed worst of the top 10, apprehending just 49.3 percent of offenders between 2014 and 2016. Police in Oulu investigated 96 reported rapes during the three-year period, compared to 67 in Lahti.

Häme region deputy police chief Tero Seppänen blamed Lahti’s relatively poor performance on the high turnover rate among seasoned investigators, who were mostly replaced by rookies. Officials in Oulu could not point to any single reason for their success, but noted that officers had used coercive measures more effectively.

School holidays in five breaks?

Tampere-based tabloid Aamulehti goes back to school to look at a proposal to re-shuffle annual school vacations in a bid to better coordinate school breaks with adults’ work and vacation leave, and the needs of family and business life.

Tampere city officials are therefore considering a plan to re-organise current school vacations so that there would be two holiday periods in the autumn and three in the spring. The idea means that the winter holiday break would be one week after Easter. The domino effect would push the spring term back two weeks, only letting kids off for the summer vacation around June 17 and the autumn term would begin around August 20.

The planners have pointed out that currently vacations times in Finland are not in sync with central Europe – and that has a sometimes undesirable effect on some business sectors. City officials said that a similar initiative failed to get a passing grade from Education Ministry officials 10 years ago, but the local education department wants to trial the proposal in the 2018 – 2019 academic year.

They said the new approach would break up the long and intense spring semester, while maintaining the required 190 teaching days. Ylöjärvi education department boss Matti Hursti said that the proposal should not affect senior students writing matriculation exams, since their total classroom time would not change.

Teachers’ union chair Olli Luukkainen said however that it is important to keep students’ needs and perspectives at the centre of any potential changes.

Transport Minister's ongoing Via Dolorosa

Tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat continues to pick apart the imbroglio surrounding Transport Minister Anne Berner’s still-born plan to reform the country's road transport system. In its print edition, IS claims that Berner concealed the details of her controversial plan to hand over control of the road network to a new corporate state entity and to scrap car taxes for road usage fees.

The proposal met with immediate resistance from the Centre Party minister’s coalition partners, the Finns and National Coalition parties, which apparently took Berner by surprise. However IS writes that it was Berner’s plans that blindsided the government.

IS said that although Berner had been meeting with a working group that included Finns and National Coalition party ministers Jussi Niinistö and Kai Mykkänen respectively, she never rolled out details of the assignment handed to her by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.

Faulty financials

The trio never discussed eliminating vehicle taxes as proposed by the reform, since that was not the Transport Ministry’s territory, but the Finance Ministry’s, headed by NCP chair Petteri Orpo. When Berner mentioned removing the tax in an interview with HS just before Christmas, Finance Ministry officials immediately warned that such matters should not be discussed in public for fear of disrupting car sales.

In the blow-by-blow account, IS revealed that Berner handed over a report on the reform proposal to Niinistö last Monday, and to Orpo on Tuesday, the same day that she went public with the bold plan. Orpo only discovered the intention to do away with vehicle taxes when he reached page 79 of the 150-page report.

According to the paper, the Finance Ministry said it could not accept the wholesale removal of the tax without any preparation or consideration of other potential tax implications. There was no indication that Berner had lodged any official request for ministry officials to assess the impact of the tax reform. Other financial estimates included in the report had not been verified and an online calculator to help drivers assess possible road usage fees provided incorrect information, IS said.

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