The criminal justice process
- if you are summoned as a witness, you are obligated to arrive at a court
- no one has to testify against himself/herself.
The police are responsible for carrying out the pre-trial investigation of an offence. If the prosecutor decides to bring charges, the case will be resolved by the local district court.
After receiving a report of an offence, the police initiate a pre-trial investigation, during which they hear the victim of the suspected offender and interview the suspect, possible eyewitnesses and other interested parties. The police can also initiate a pre-trial investigation without receiving a report of an offence if the police have received information on the basis of which they have reason to suspect an offence has been committed.
If you have a hearing or speech impairment and you are summoned for an interview, the police must ensure that you are provided the services of a sign language interpreter.
If the police find during their pre-trial investigation that no offence has been committed, the case will be declared void. In other instances, after the pre-trial investigation is complete, the police will transfer the case to the prosecutor. The prosecutor can then bring charges, in which event the case will be heard by a district court. The prosecutor can decide to not bring charges for example when there is no evidence of an offence or the offence is a minor one.
Usually, in order for the judicial process to proceed, the victim of an offence must stipulate that they want the offender to receive a penalty. However, physical assaults and rapes are deemed offences subject to public prosecution. If you are the victim of a violent assault or rape, you do not necessarily have to request a penalty for the offender, as the prosecutor will do this on your behalf.
The court's ruling can be either a penalty fine or imprisonment. The victim of a crime may have the right to receive compensation for damages.
Finnish legislation stipulates that there is a general obligation to testify: every person who is aware of an event and is summoned as a witness is obligated to arrive at a court to give of account of everything they know of the case in question.
A witness must answer questions and must speak truthfully. If it is determined that a witness is lying or has neglected to tell something, the witness can be prosecuted for perjury.
No one has to testify against himself/herself. You also have the right to refrain from testifying if the accused person is your close family member i.e. your current or former spouse, your partner, child, sibling or the spouse of one of these. You must still arrive at the court if you have received a summons. During the court session, the judge can free you of the obligation to testify.
As a witness, you do not need to reveal anything that would implicate you or someone in your immediate family of an offence. If this type of situation arises, you as a witness must clearly state that you cannot answer the question for this reason.
Trade and industrial secrets need not be divulged, unless the court so separately requires.
If you have a hearing or speech impairment and you are summoned to testify, the court is required to ensure that the services of an interpreter are available to you.