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Prosecutors sending fewer cases to courts, analysis shows

Prosecution rates fell most in Helsinki, Itä-Uusimaa and Länsi-Uusimaa -- where over the past 10 years, prosecutors sent around 50 percent of cases to court.

Helsingin käräjäoikeus
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

An Yle analysis of data from the Office of the Prosecutor General has indicated a decline in the proportion of cases prosecutors are sending to the nation’s courts.

The numbers show that last year, police referred a total of about 90,000 criminal cases to prosecutors for consideration of charges.

Altogether 64 percent of these cases ended up in court. Ten years ago, the proportion of cases that resulted in trials was over 70 percent.

After reviewing prosecution data for the 10 years between 2009 and 2018, Yle found that the lowest proportion of cases that went to trial were in Helsinki, Itä-Uusimaa and Länsi-Uusimaa, where the average prosecution rate was around 50 percent.

In other words prosecutors only laid charges in half of the cases referred to them by police over that 10-year period.

Prosecution rate fairly steady in rest of country

In 2018, the prosecution rate in Helsinki was 56 percent, compared to nearly 70 percent 10 years ago. Similarly in Itä-Uusimaa the prosecution rate fell from close to 70 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2018. The picture was the same in Länsi-Uusimaa, where the percentage of cases prosecuted in 2018 fell to 52 percent from 63 percent in 2009.

By contrast, prosecution rates in other parts of Finland remained largely steady over the 10-year period under review. In western Finland, prosecutors sent 73 percent of cases referred by police to court in 2009, compared to 74 percent last year. The corresponding numbers for central Finland were 78 percent 10 years ago and 76 percent last year.

The head of the country’s prosecutors’ association Jukka Haavisto said that the declining prosecution rate was a negative development.

"Workloads mean that [people] don’t go to court. Many prosecutors are not happy with the situation. Of course we would like solve the crimes that affect victims and where they have problems," Haavisto added.

He acknowledged that a lack of resources might be preventing some professionals from prosecuting cases in court.

"That situation exists in certain cases. A falling prosecution rate means that we sent 20 percent more matters to the courts for consideration," he noted.

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