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Friday's papers: Recognising shared parenting, cops feign ignorance, deterring repeat offenders

Papers in Finland this Friday discuss a proposal to let children have two home addresses, a report from a police boss trial, and a plan to stop repeat criminals.

Image: AP Graphics Bank

Helsingin Uutiset carries a story on a proposal from Finland's Ministry of Justice that would allow children to have two addresses in the population register. At the moment, children in Finland can only have one home address by law. The amendment to laws on custody and visitation rights would also change the current legislation to let parents or the courts decide on letting children live jointly with both their parents – for example, one week at each home, as many divorced families in Finland already choose to do.

The proposal defines a joint custody relationship as one in which the children live at least 40 percent of the time with the other parent as well.

A representative of an association for single-parent families in Finland, Heljä Sairisalo, tells the paper that her organisation is hoping that the change would enact similar reforms to Finland's system of family benefits and services. For example, she says that housing benefits should be increased for all low-income parents, regardless of their childcare load. She also says that children in joint living arrangements create more expense, and so both parents should be entitled to the monthly child benefit payment.

Petri Kolmonen of the 'Dads for Kids' group says he is happy about the proposal, but not its content.

"Finland needs a law that would make joint living arrangements the default. Now it is just mentioned as an option. The joint arrangement creates an equal parenting relationship, spreading the power evenly, which prevents custody battles. Belgium has a law like this, and it has brought good results," he says.

The proposal will be discussed in Parliament this autumn, and if approved, it would come into effect in April of 2019, at the earliest. Despite the change, children living with both their parents would still only have one official residence in the eyes of Finnish law.

See no evil, hear no evil

National daily Helsingin Sanomat features an analysis of the preliminary investigation report from a trial that began on Tuesday, where top police leaders are suspected of dereliction of their official duties by not ensuring that a database of police informants was properly managed.

Suspended police chief Lasse Aapio joins former police commissioner Mikko Paatero, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Robin Lardot and former Helsinki police department chief Jukka Riikonen in the list of law enforcement representatives that is facing charges in the case.

The root of the problem can be traced back to drug cop chief-turned-convicted criminal Jari Aarnio, who is accused of suspending the use of an informant register during his reign as head of the narcotics unit and forbidding the registration of new connections.

HS reports that the behaviour of the leaders of the police and security institutions in Finland when confronted with the problem of Aarnio's rebel methods was nothing less than "embarrassing". Throughout the investigation report, their responses to questions on the register were a consistent "I don't know", "I can't answer that", "I have no knowledge of that", or "I don't know."

The paper writes that the report gives the impression that the top brass in Finland's police force had no idea what its officers on the streets were up to. Or if they were told, they didn't care to know because they preferred to pass the buck of the responsibility for their subordinates' actions.

For example, Riikonen says that many times during his preliminary investigation hearing that he was not made aware of any improprieties, when in fact, someone had told him about their suspicions regarding Aarnio's close relationship with underworld boss Keijo Vilhunen already in 2009. HS says that according to the report, Paatero was also aware of the drug unit's unorthodox methods for years before the Aarnio scandal broke.

Deterring repeat offenders?

And the tabloid Iltalehti finishes the paper review with a story on another proposal to change Finland's law: this time a government plan to change the definition of first-time criminal defenders.

Under the current law, a person is considered a first-time offender if a period of three years has elapsed since the person was found guilty of a previous offence. The government now seeks to increase that period of time to five years, to ensure harsher sentences for repeat offenders.

IL says that seven of the eleven experts that were shown the bill for comment have criticised the idea, as it would have only a cosmetic effect. It would put a few dozen prisoners in jail longer and be very costly to enact - an estimated 2.2 million euros in extra costs for taxpayers every year.

"Some of the comments asked if it would be better to direct that money towards the Criminal Sanctions Agency for efforts to reduce recidivism, or towards faster court proceedings," Ministry of Justice advisor Pauliina Tallroth told the tabloid.

The idea got its start in response to several high-profile rapes and homicides, which led members of the public to ask that Finland crack down on its criminals. IL suggests that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's coalition crafted the proposal to win political points with voters.

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