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Thursday's papers: Delayed justice, daycare crisis and pregnancy Covid fears

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence cases in Finland often take years to get to trial.

The surge in Omicron cases has led to staff shortages in daycares across Helsinki. Image: Risto Koskinen / Yle

Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat delves into (siirryt toiseen palveluun) the problems inherent in Finland's criminal justice system when it comes to resolving cases related to sexual and intimate partner violence.

Criminal lawyer Maija Häyrinen, who has specialised in sexual offences for nearly 15 years, says that long delays in police investigations are a common occurrence in Finland, even for cases involving severe forms of sexual abuse.

"People don't understand how weathered this system is," she says, adding that the quality of pre-trial investigations into such cases has deteriorated in recent years, particularly in terms of officials' attitudes and expertise.

Although sexual and intimate partner violence is officially at the top of the priority list for police, Häyrinen believes this is true only on paper, based on the experience of her clients.

She cites the example of one client, who was a victim of aggravated child sexual abuse. While a criminal case was filed in 2019, the investigation is still pending over two years later.

Additionally, even if the police investigation does not drag on, the criminal process is often lengthy and tedious, with judges and prosecutors putting off cases for years.

Häyrinen draws attention to the fact that multiple sexual assault cases that have been lodged in the past two or three years have still not been heard in the district court.

She believes not enough is being done to remedy the situation as serious sexual assaults affect only a small section of the population.

"Decision makers don’t have to deal with these things. Maybe they believe these problems do not affect them but some other part of society," Häyrinen suggests.

Daycare crisis in Helsinki worsens

Iltalehti carries a story (siirryt toiseen palveluun) about the deteriorating daycare situation in Helsinki, where employees in other city departments are being transferred to early childhood education to cope with an ongoing staff shortage.

According to Ulla Lehtonen, Head of Early Childhood Education at the City of Helsinki, the city has transferred 20 employees from other departments, including libraries, sports services, culture and museums to daycares.

They are all permanent employees of the city, and they will now assist in managing groups of children in 20 different daycares across Helsinki.

Lehtonen says that the new staff members have been provided with a two-day training course and will not stay at the post for longer than eight weeks.

Daycares in Helsinki have witnessed an alarming staff shortage for the past few months, which has worsened recently due to the surge in Covid-19 cases.

Covid putting a strain on maternity wards

Tampere-based Aamulehti explores the impact that the Covid-19 crisis has had on maternity wards and pregnant women.

According to the report (siirryt toiseen palveluun), doctors have had to make difficult decisions, including terminating pregnancies to ensure the survival of patients infected with the virus.

The maternity ward at Tampere University Hospital (Tays) is reportedly feeling the strain of the worsening Covid-19 situation, as mothers infected with the virus must be isolated after giving birth.

The increasing number of Omicron cases has also resulted in staff shortages, and has led to several postponements in home visits and appointment cancellations.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) added pregnant women to their list of high-risk groups last month, stating that pregnancy increases the risk of severe illness from Covid-19.