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Appeal Court stiffens sentence in Tapanila rape case

A Helsinki Appeal Court has handed down stiffer verdicts to three men convicted of rape in Tapanila, northern Helsinki one year ago - after overturning the lower court's view and determining that the offence was aggravated. An adult accused in the case had his sentence extended by one year and converted to jail time, while two minors each had their suspended sentences lengthened by nine months.

Tapanilan asema.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Last June the Helsinki District Court found three men guilty of raping a young woman at the Tapanila train station in Espoo. The eldest of the three received a suspended sentence of one year and four months, while the two younger accused received one-year suspended prison sentences, triggering public outrage.

The prosecutor in the case had called for sentences corresponding to aggravated rape for the five men allegedly involved in the case - four were minors. However the lower court found that only three were guilty of committing an offence and sentenced them for rape. Two others were freed of the charges.

Appeal Court: Offence was aggravated

The Appeal Court agreed with the lower court that only three of the five men were guilty of the crime. However it differed from the district court on the severity of the offence. The higher court pointed to what it saw as the aggravated nature of the crime and increased the sentences handed down by the district court.

The eldest accused had his sentence lengthened from one year and four months to two years and four months. At the same time, it overturned the lower court’s decision to hand down a suspended sentence and slapped the man with a custodial sentence – meaning he will have to serve his time in jail.

The higher court increased the sentences for the two younger accused by nine months, giving them suspended sentences of one year and nine months.

Rarely-used legal provision used for sentencing

The Appeal Court said it arrived at its verdict of aggravated rape by pointing to the number of perpetrators and the fact that the offence was particularly humiliating for the victim. Last year the lower court had determined that the crime was neither aggravated nor humiliating.

Both courts referenced a rarely-cited legal provision, according to which it is possible to hand down a lighter sentence if the perpetrators have faced other consequences as a result of their actions. Both courts found that the intense publicity generated by the case as well as threats targeting the accused were factors that contributed to lighter sentencing.

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