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Monday's papers: Underage snus video, large police case load and the engines that couldn't

Police investigate a video of a young child being force-fed snus, police face massive case loads and rail company VR can't use its pricey new locomotives.

nuuskapusseja purkissa
Recent surveys suggest that young people in Finland are increasingly cool on smoking cigarettes but have been warming to snus. Image: Meeri Niinistö / Yle
Yle News

Southeast Finland police have said they are investigating a criminal report into a social media video showing a teen forcing snus into the mouth of a young child.

Tabloid Iltalehti said it had obtained a copy of the 45-second long video, which has been widely shared on social media and was reportedly recorded by a friend of the teen in Hamina, southeast Finland on Saturday evening. According to IL, police visited the scene of the incident but have not yet indicated which category of offence they are investigating.

IL contacted the Poison Information Centre, which said that even small doses of snus and its main ingredient, nicotine, can cause symptoms of mild poisoning in young children. They include headaches, stomach pains, dizziness and weakness. Cases of more severe nicotine poisoning could lead to heart problems, arrythmia or seizures.

The commercial sale of snus is banned in Finland, but consumers are allowed to import it for personal use -- up to one kilogram per 24-hour period, according to current regulations.

68,000 cases on the blotter

Police at the Itä-Uusimaa police department in southern Finland "killed" some 15,500 preliminary investigations for various reasons, according to largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat. Rationales included the insignificance of the suspected offence or cases that involved the foolhardy actions of minors.

Overall, investigators receive about 68,000 criminal reports annually and are currently working on about 8,500 active cases, HS said.

Monday's story is part of a deep dive into the state of police resources and a follow-up to a report last week, in which the paper brought to light a 2014 precinct policy of abstaining from further processing of some cases after initial vetting.

The background to the directive was that police simply don't have the means to thoroughly probe all of the criminal reports lodged. HS wrote that prosecutors also have the power to pull the plug on certain cases, for example if the cost of trial and sentencing are deemed to be disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime being considered.

HS spoke with Sargeant Anneli Kalervo, an investigator with a 25-year career, who said that without preliminary vetting, each of the department's 60 investigators would have between 200 and 300 open cases. Itä-Uusimaa deputy police chief Ari Karvonen told the paper that last year roughly 90 officers left the department and said the turnover rate is relatively high in the Helsinki region.

VR's 300m-euro engines that couldn't

State-owned rail services company VR shelled out more than 300 million euros for engines that it hasn't been able to use with its stock of commuter trains, writes tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat.

The paper explained that the Vectron locomotives' automatic access control systems have not performed as expected in the local rail environment, and for unknown reasons unexpectedly activate the emergency brake system. The defect is so serious that it has short-circuited commissioning of the new engines for use on commuter and freight trains.

As a result, Traficom (a merger of the former Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, Ficora) has not granted VR Group permission to use the engines, manufactured by the German conglomerate Siemens.

The most expensive engine procurement in Finnish history was competed in 2013 and saw VR Group purchase 80 Vectron electrically-powered engines for over 300 million euros. VR also had an option to pick up another 97 locomotives as part of the deal. Finland received the first deliveries on schedule at the end of 2016.

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