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Kuopio sword attacker gets life sentence

The court ruled that he was of sound mind at the time of the attack and fully understood what he was doing.

Joel Marin oikeudenkäynnissä Kuopiossa 8.9.2020
Joel Marin in court in September. Image: Sami Takkinen / Yle

A man has been convicted of murdering one person and injuring nine with a sabre at a vocational college in Kuopio, eastern Finland, and sentenced to life in prison.

Joel Marin, 26, was found guilty of one murder and 20 counts of attempted murder at North Savo District Court on Friday. The attack took place at the Savo Vocational College just over a year ago, in a classroom located in a Kuopio shopping centre. A young Ukrainian woman died while 10 other people - including the suspect - were injured in the incident.

Marin had confessed to one murder and three attempted murders. His lawyers sought unsuccessfully to have the other charges lessened or dropped.

The court ruled that he was of sound mind at the time of the attack and fully understood what he was doing. This was based on a psychological evaluation carried out by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), and backed up by evidence that he had planned the attack for more than a year.

Marin’s defence lawyers had argued that he was non compos mentis at the time.

Exceptional case in Finnish history

The perpetrator was also convicted of several lesser offences, including aggravated vandalism, as he set a fire in the classroom, and assault against a member of the shopping centre’s staff. Marin fired at him with an air gun, which however failed to go off properly.

The defence may still appeal the decision.

The trial was unusual in that the other perpetrators who carried out school attacks in Finland in the early 2000s all killed themselves so did not stand trial.

An attack at a school in Jokela in 2007 left nine people dead including the attacker. A shooting at a college in Kauhajoki the following year resulted in 11 deaths, including the perpetrator.

"Life" averages 14.5 years

According to the Criminal Sanctions Agency, a "life sentence" in Finland actually averages around 14.5 years, with the longest ever lasting 22 years.

Those handed life sentences may be eligible for parole after as little as 12 years behind bars, or after 10 years if the perpetrator was under the age of 21 at the time of the crime.

In rare cases, a prisoner with a life sentence may be pardoned by the president.

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