A new fee of 260 euros introduced for rejected restraining order applications may be driving a decline in the number of citations, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat. However a growth in support services provided for vulnerable groups may also be behind the trend, NGOs say.
In the past, authorities did not charge a fee for applications that were rejected. Before the fee was introduced in 2016, the number of applications recorded was about 3,000 per year. In 2018 however, that number dropped to just over 2,000.
"The threshold for applying for a restraining order has risen considerably with the fee," Jaana Kinnunen, head of a Turku facility that is part of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, told HS.
One person’s word against another's
The paper wrote that the threshold for issuing a restraining order in Finland is already quite high, as it may be difficult for a district court to assess whether or not there is a solid basis for a protection order. This is especially the case in situations where the court must weigh one person’s words against another’s.
According to the federation’s Mikko Savelainen, when victims already face the uncertainty of having applications approved in addition to the possibility of paying a fee if the application is rejected, the threshold for applying easily rises.
The situation has affected the desire of low-income-earners in particular to apply for a restraining order, noted director Minna Goman of Viola – Free from Violence, an organisation that supports people dealing with relationship violence.
She added that applicants are already dealing with chaotic situations, so the threat of financial loss may be seen as too great a risk to take.
However NGOs noted that one factor that may be affecting the fall in the number of restraining order applications may be the increased availability of services for vulnerable groups. Since more support services are available, fewer people may be filing applications for protection orders.
This year the Ministry of Justice launched a survey to determine how the fee has affected demand for restraining orders.