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Helsinki Police issue new sexual harassment guidelines, float the idea of spot fines

Police in Helsinki have been allowed to fine individuals for sexual harassment since 2014, but few law enforcement officers are aware of the possibility. New guidelines may have police handing out direct penalties in response to incidents of sexual harassment, in an effort to avoid lengthy pretrial investigations.

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Helsinki Police are considering spot fines for sexual harassment. Image: Tuomas Hirvonen / Yle

Helsinki Police have issued new guidelines outlining fining procedure in incidents where sexual harassment has occurred. Legally police have been able to give out penalties for incidents of sexual harassment already since 2014, says Chief Superintendent Jere Roimu.

"The new measure was not added to the fines manual carried by police, and so not all officers have been aware that the possibility exists," he says.

Roimu says the new guideline now being circulated is intended to speed up the processing of harassment cases.

"Until now essentially every sexual offense has been reported as a crime and has undergone a full pretrial investigation. We are trying to expand how we respond to these cases, so that the handling of more common forms of harassment could be expedited – that is, a patrol will write up a ticket for the perpetrator. This way not every single case needs to be dragged out into a full investigation and more cases can be handled," Roimu explains.

Strict day-fine practice

Roimu says sexual harassment has become more common in recent times, and admits that harassment that may or may not have happened on New Year's Eve was an instigator of the new, clearer guidelines. But the coming of springtime and the warmer weather is also behind the updated rules, which were passed down two weeks ago.

"Around May Day, when it's a little warmer and people don't need to bundle up, it's usual for the number of sexual harassment cases to rise," Roimu says. "Demanding a penalty and officially reporting a crime are both still valid options, and incidents are judged case by case. If there are several parties or any violence involved, then it's automatically a criminal case."

As far as Chief Superintendent Roimu knows, no fines have ever been issued for sexual harassment in Finland. Under the current guidelines, the number of day-fines involved in a single harassment fine will be between 15 and 40.

"Compared with other offenses like traffic violations or petty theft, harassment is judged and fined quite strictly," Roimu says.

Aapio proposes spot fine

Helsinki's Police Chief Lasse Aapio told Yle on Thursday that he wants to make it easier for sexual harassment victims to press charges against their assailants.

Under the current system, charges aren't pressed unless the victim explicitly requests prosecution.

On Friday, Aapio suggested in the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat the possibility of on-the-spot fines for clear harassment cases.

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