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Tuesday's papers: Crime and punishment, women in the military, laws tougher on smoking, easier on cars

Among the items in today's papers, a poll by the daily Helsingin Sanomat shows that the vast majority of Finns would like to see courts hand down tougher sentences for crimes of sex and violence.

Varusmiesten valatilaisuus Kainuun prikaatissa Hoikankankaalla.
Finnish soldiers taking their enlistment oath. Image: Kimmo Rauatmaa / Lehtikuva

Nearly three-quarters of respondents to a Gallup poll commissioned and published by Helsingin Sanomat say that they favour tougher sentences for sex crimes and crimes of violence.

However, Helsingin Sanomat also writes that research shows that the sentences imposed in such cases are actually very close to what most people say they want them to be.

The paper interviewed Juha Kääriäinen, the director of research at the University of Helsinki's Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, who has extensively studied the concepts of crime and punishment in Finland. One of his studies, carried out for the Ministry of Justice last year, showed that there is no major gap between the public's ideas and practice by the courts.

Kääriäinen says that the apparent disconnect between the public's views on sentencing and real world practice can be explained by survey methods. When given the details and circumstances of specific crimes, laymen opt for sentencing "surprisingly close" to what is actually imposed. Basically, he argues that people tend to imagine crimes are worse than they are.

Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen has been pushing for tougher sentencing, particularly for sex crimes and crimes of violence.

Juha Kääriäinen sees this as fishing for votes. He says that punishment does not effectively deter crime.

"Preventative measures are clearly more effective," he told Helsingin Sanomat.

By this, Kääriäinen means reducing inequalities, drug and alcohol policies and social policies.

Tougher on smokes, easier on cars

Anti-tobacco policies have gone a long way in cutting the number of people in Finland who smoke, and now smokers face even more restrictions and how and where they can exercise their habit.

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti today says that smokers may see major changes as of this coming Sunday, depending on what arrangements have been made where they work, study or engage in other indoor activities.

Provisions of a 2016 law come into effect on Sunday which impose even more stringent regulations on any indoor smoking facility. These include the requirement that all indoor smoking areas must be kept at below ambient air pressure, the distance between the top of the door and the ceiling must be no less than 40 cm, and access to these areas must be arranged in such a way that smoke does not spread outside the confined space set aside for smokers.

The law also includes a general ban working in smoking rooms.

On the other hand, life will get somewhat easier for car owners when more relaxed car inspection laws come into effect on Sunday.

Among the changes is that new vehicles will not have to be inspected until they are four years old. After that, those cars are to be inspected every other year until the vehicle is ten years old. So, as Iltalehti points out, if you buy a new car today, it does not have to go through inspection until 2022.

The new law, says this paper, will save you money - if you don't have any problems with your car.

Military and gender

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö aroused a heated debate last week with a statement suggesting that a temporary ban on military service by women as a cost-savings measure. Within a matter of days, Niinistö decided that it was a bad idea and announced that he himself did not back his own proposal.

Ilta-Sanomat today carries an article featuring 20 year-old Corporal Kaisla Luukkainen, a woman who has been a volunteer soldier in the Finnish Defence Forces since last summer.

Luukkainen told the paper that she's been surprised by gender role attitudes in the military, not in the system or from superiors, but rather from male peers of her own age.

She says that many conscripts still have a problem taking orders from a woman. As a corporal, Luukkainen has acted as a squad leader.

"If a woman tries to maintain the same discipline as the men do, she gets to hear that she's nagging. If a man demands discipline, he's a good leader," she explains.

Even though she's had to deal with bias, Luukkainen says that she's still enthusiastic about her service.

"The training is more relevant than I had thought. I expected it to be a lot rougher. But, it's been nice and fun."

Luukkainen has decided, though, not to make the military a career. She will be mustered out on 14 June, and she says with a sense of accomplishment.

"I've gained more nerve. I won't be bothered by the small stuff in civilian life," Luukkainen told Ilta-Sanomat.

Capital war games

If you are a resident of the capital and this week come across someone, male or female, armed and in full battle dress hiding in the bushes, don't be too alarmed.

The Metro freesheet reports that the Army’s Guard Jaeger Regiment is starting a week of war games in Helsinki on Tuesday.

The manoeuvers include troops firing training rounds which may make it noisy between 7 AM and 10 PM in the districts of Etelä-Haaga, Katajanokka, Kannelmäki, Hernesaari, Salmisaari and Itäsalmi.

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