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Appeal court upholds life sentence for father convicted of child’s stabbing death

The defendant admitted to killing the three-year-old, but denied the murder charge.

Kynttilöitä Lyseon leikkipuiston portilla.
Kynttilöitä ja kukkia Lyseon leikkipuiston portilla. Image: Petteri Juuti / Yle

The Helsinki Appeal Court ruled on Thursday to uphold a life sentence handed down to a man who stabbed and killed his three-year-old daughter in Porvoo, 50km east of Helsinki, in November 2017.

The appellate court backed the findings of the district court, which ruled that the offence was premeditated and committed in an especially brutal and callous manner. The 39-year-old French national had attacked his daughter while she was in a park.

A psychiatric evaluation found that the man was fully aware of his actions, leading the Itä-Uusimaa district court to hand down the murder conviction last summer.

The defendant appealed the sentence to the appeal court, with the defence arguing that the deed had not been especially brutal or callous and that he had not planned to kill his daughter. The defence also referred to the man’s mental state and extenuating circumstances, such as his divorce and the homelessness that he experienced as a result.

The convicted man, Nicolas Mathieu Cherchel confessed to manslaughter, which carries a minimum sentence of eight years in prison, while murder always results in a life sentence. In addition to the murder charge, the district court also convicted the man on charges of assault, illegal threats, child kidnapping and home invasion, given that he had previously spoken of killing his family.

Higher damages payout for mother

The recommendations of the Justice Ministry’s Personal Injury Advisory Board are used as guidelines in determining damages for victims of crime. Recommendations from 2017 indicated that damages in the range of 3,000 – 12,000 euros should be paid upon the death of a child. However in this case, the district court decided to deviate from the guidelines and ordered the man to pay the child’s mother 25,000 euros in damages.

The court also took into consideration the fact that the child’s mother had witnessed the act. The Helsinki Appeal Court upheld all of the lower court’s arguments as it overturned the defendant’s appeal.

"The Appeal Court ruled that the matter before it is exceptional and has caused the mother extreme suffering, and for this reason there is justification for an upward adjustment in damages from the recommended scale," the court declared.

According to Finland's Criminal Sanctions Agency, prisoners serving a life sentences can be released at the earliest after serving a minimum of 12 years.

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