Helsinki District Court has ordered that the three teenage defendants accused of murdering a 16-year-old boy undergo a psychiatric assessment.
The verdict in the case is pending until the assessments are carried out. The court will then decide if the defendants are innocent, guilty or deemed to be not criminally responsible at the time of the suspected murder.
The three suspects are accused of murdering the 16-year-old in the Koskela district of Helsinki last December. They also face other charges in relation to the case, including nine counts of assault and one robbery charge.
The psychiatric assessments will take at least two months and will examine whether each of the accused understood the consequences of their actions.
If they are found to have acted with diminished responsibility, a subsequent prison sentence in the event of the defendants being found guilty could be reduced by up to a quarter.
The court ordered the three defendants to remain in custody, where they have been held in pre-trial detention since 10 December. The final results of the assessments are not expected to be ready for at least three to four months.
Prosecutors demand lengthy prison sentences
According to the prosecutors in the case, the three accused lured the victim to the Koskela Hospital area on Friday, 4 December with the intention of subjecting him to a violent attack. Police uncovered evidence during the pre-trial investigation that the victim had been assaulted at the same location on each of the three previous Friday evenings.
On 4 December, the victim was subjected to a brutal, cruel, and humiliating ordeal for up to four hours, prosecutors stated. The three defendants eventually left the victim lying on the ground at the scene. His body was discovered by construction workers on the morning of Monday 7 December.
Prosecutors are demanding 12, 11, and 9.5 years prison sentences for each of the three defendants on the charges of murder as well as for the prior assaults and related charges.
Court: Defendants committed acts of violence
The court’s interim ruling added that it has been possible to prove in court that the defendants committed acts of violence against the victim on the evening of Friday 4 December.
According to the court, the youngest and oldest defendants were mainly responsible for hitting and kicking the victim several times, including striking him while he was lying on the ground.
In addition, one of these two defendants also hit the victim with a metal pipe and dropped it twice on the victim’s upper body. This defendant is the oldest of the three accused, for whom prosecutors are demanding a sentence of 12 years in prison.
Prosecutors have demanded an 11 year jail sentence for the youngest defendant.
The court further noted that the third defendant also punched the victim twice in the face and helped to carry him from one of the crime scenes to another. This defendant left the scene during the course of the evening, but later returned.
Defence denies intention to kill
All three deny the charge of murder. Two of the accused have admitted to being guilty of aggravated assault and aggravated involuntary manslaughter, while the third admits only to committing assault.
According to the defendants’ defence team, the correct punishment for the aggravated crimes of assault and involuntary manslaughter is about four years in prison, while the assault should receive a less than two years suspended sentence.
The defence added that the defendants did not intend to kill the victim.
The court will later make a judgment on the involvement of each of the accused and how the seriousness of the violence affects their sentencing.
Police investigating role of authorities
The case has sparked a discussion about school bullying as well as Finland’s child welfare system, as the victim had been bullied throughout primary school, according to the findings of an Yle investigation.
The victim had also been a client of child protection services, after he moved outside his home last autumn at the request of his parents.
Despite the three prior assaults on the victim before the events of 4 December, his plight was not noticed by authorities.
Helsinki police have therefore launched a preliminary investigation into the actions of the authorities in relation to the case, although a crime is not suspected at this stage.