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Helsinki police suspend investigations into NYE harassment

Helsinki police have suspended their investigation into all but one case of harassment that may have occurred on New Year’s Eve. Officers were unable to identify victims or suspects in most of the cases. Helsinki police had previously suggested that large-scale sexual harassment had been carried out by men who appeared to be foreign.

Kaksi tyttöä seisoo torilla.
Image: Vihtori Koskinen / Yle

In January Helsinki police announced they had received 16 reports of sexual crimes perpetrated in and around Senate Square on New Year’s Eve, mainly by men of foreign appearance.

According to the officer in charge of the investigation, Teija Koskenmäki-Karaharju, 2-3 of those reports concerned group harassment, where more than one person was suspected of involvement.

Now all but one of those investigations has been shut down as police failed to identify either a suspect or a victim. In Finnish law sexual harassment can only be prosecuted if the victim decides to press charges.

Attempted rape

One of the reports concerned an attempted rape, and that case is still open. The victim has not yet come forward, with only bystanders’ and the suspect’s testimony currently available to police. Officers will liaise with prosecutors to decide whether or not to proceed with the investigation.

"It’s regrettable if victims’ views can’t be heard," said Koskenmäki-Karaharju. "If our information comes only from the suspect or from bystanders, we can’t be sure what really happened."

Although there were reports of groups engaged in sexual harassment by surrounding women, in the end it is impossible to say how many such cases really happened and were the perpetrators asylum seekers or not.

"Can't be sure"

Helsinki police chief Ilkka Koskimäki had said that they had information suggesting asylum seekers may have been planning large-scale harassment similar to that seen in Cologne, although that was disputed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

"If the only description we have is that the suspect has a foreign background, those features could fit people living in Finland anyway or those who simply look foreign," said Koskenmäki-Karaharju. "We really can’t say that it was an asylum seeker."

German police announced this week that most of the suspects they had arrested had origins in North Africa, but that they would find it very difficult to identify suspects in most of the cases they were investigating.

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