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Appeal court quashes Helsinki doorman’s conviction for ethnic discrimination

A court found that two of three indictments for discrimination brought against a nightclub bouncer had been served after the statute of limitations expired.

Yökerhon edusta.
A district court found that the club's doorman discriminated against two foreigners based on their ethnicity. Image: Silminnäkijä / Yle

An appeal court has significantly altered the sentence handed down by a district court to a bouncer convicted of discrimination following an Yle investigation. The higher court decided to dismiss some of the fines imposed by the lower court in two different cases involving discrimination.

In the first case, the district court convicted the man of discrimination and ordered him to pay a fine as well as damages to the plaintiff. The doorman was suspected of blocking Somali and Russian men from entering the establishment based on factors including their ethnicity.

However the appeal court overturned the sentence because the statute of limitations had expired. The statute of limitations for the offence is two years.

According to Finnish law, the right to appeal expires after a period of two years if the most severe penalty for the crime is one year imprisonment. The longest jail term an individual found guilty of discrimination can face in Finland is six months.

In this case, the indictment was served to the defendant more than one month after the expiration date.

Second incident's decision unchanged

In the second case, the bouncer was suspected of preventing a Romanian man from entering the club for the same reason. In this case, the appeal court did not alter the sentence and the defendant was compelled to pay a 15-day fine totalling 90 euros and compensation of 800 euros.

The district court had originally ordered the doorman to a 50-day fine in both cases and to pay a total of 1,600 euros plus interest in damages to the three plaintiffs. He was also called upon to pay their legal fees.

The discrimination charges and subsequent trial arose in 2013 from Yle’s Silminnäkijä programme, in which a hidden camera was used to investigate how Finns treat foreigners in everyday situations.

The foreigners who participated in the programme were Somali, Russian and Romanian and were all long-term residents of Finland who were fluent in Finnish.

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