If You Become a Victim of a Crime
The brochure is intended as a practical guide for crime victims. More detailed information and instructions are provided by the authorities.
Updated on 9 May 2017
Stages of the criminal procedure
If you have become a victim of a crime, report it to the police. The sooner you make the report, the greater are the chances for the police to solve the offence. In order for you to receive compensation for damages, a report of the offence may be required. An offence can be reported to the police patrol that arrives at the crime scene, in person at a police station or in certain minor offences also on the internet (www.poliisi.fi/en) or by telephone.
The report can be made at any police station, and it can also be made by someone else on your behalf. If there are witnesses to the offence, take down their names and contact information.
The police will enter the course of events together with the names and personal data of the parties and witnesses in the report of the offence. The victim has the right to receive a written confirmation of the report he or she has made.
If you have been injured in connection with the offence, you should go and see a doctor as soon as possible. A medical certificate may be necessary at the trial or when applying for compensation for example at an insurance company or the State Treasury. If the case concerns sexual assault, you must avoid washing yourself and changing clothes before you see the doctor.
If the case concerns a burglary, do not clean the apartment or house before the police arrive.
Offences that the police investigate only if the victim requests that the offender be punished are called complainant offences. Such offences are, for instance, petty theft and criminal damage. If the victim of a complainant offence changes his or her mind and does not, after all, wish the offender to be punished, the police will discontinue the investigation.
When investigating an offence, the police wish to know if you, the victim, request that the offender be punished. If you at this stage state that you do not request punishment or if you later withdraw your request for punishment, you may forfeit your right to bring charges later. This is important for you to know in case the prosecutor decides not to bring charges in the case.
Most offences are subject to public prosecution and therefore always investigated by the police when brought to their attention. For instance, assault and rape are subject to public prosecution also when they have taken place at home or when the offender is a family member. All domestic violence, even minor acts of violence, is subject to public prosecution. By reporting it to the police you give the authorities an opportunity to intervene.
If there is reason to suspect that an offence has been committed, the police must conduct a criminal investigation. In this investigation, the police establish what has happened, who the parties are and what kind of damages have been caused by the offence. If a criminal investigation will not be conducted, the victim of the offence must be notified.
If necessary, the police will summon you, as the victim and the injured party, to be questioned. If the time of the questioning does not suit you, you can agree on another time with the investigating police. In simple and straightforward cases, the police may question you also by telephone.
When being questioned, you must always tell the truth. If you later, after the questioning, come to think of something that could be of relevance for the case, you should contact the police.
When the record of the criminal investigation is completed, the police will send it to the prosecutor. Both you as the injured party and the suspect are entitled to obtain a free copy of the record. If you do not wish the suspect to know your contact details, you can request the police not to include them in the record.
In some minor cases, for example in cases concerning petty theft or petty assault, the police may, with the consent of the injured party, impose a fine on the suspect. In such cases, a record of the criminal investigation is not necessarily drawn up at all. If the victim consents to the imposition of a fine, the case will not be heard by a court and the prosecutor cannot pursue a claim for compensation on behalf of the victim.
An offender is liable to compensate the damages he or she has caused. The victim must state the damages and express his or her intention to claim compensation for them during the criminal investigation or at the court at the latest. Compensation can be claimed, for instance, for lost or damaged property, medication costs and medical fees, pain and suffering resulting from violence, and in some cases mental anguish.
You can prove the extent of the damages by presenting receipts for the expenses caused by the offence. You must also keep the receipts for your insurance deductible and for any possible travel costs related to the investigation. Compensation for them, too, can be claimed from the offender.
The prosecutor can pursue the victim's claim for compensation at the court, if the claim is straightforward and justified. If the victim wishes the prosecutor to do so, he or she should inform the police of this already during the criminal investigation. If the prosecutor declines to pursue the claim for compensation, he or she must notify the victim of this in writing. In this case, the victim himself or herself can pursue the claim. A legal counsel may also do it on the victim’s behalf
When the prosecutor has received the record of the criminal investigation from the police, he or she decides whether to bring charges, i.e. whether the matter will be heard by a court.
For instance, in cases where there is nothing to prove that an offence has been committed, the offence is minor or a settlement has been reached, the prosecutor may decide not to bring charges. The victim has the right to be informed about the prosecutor's decision not to prosecute. If the victim has during the criminal investigation declared that he or she requests the offender to be punished, he or she can bring charges even if the prosecutor decides not to prosecute.
Mediation can be used in criminal matters if both the victim and the suspect consent to it. In addition, it is required that the suspect confirms the course of events and that mediation is in the best interests of the victim. Mediation is free of charge and always voluntary and it can, if desired, be discontinued at any stage. Trained voluntary mediators help the parties in a criminal case discuss the event and agree on compensation for possible damages caused by the offence. The mediators also help the parties draw up an agreement. The outcome of the mediation can, for example, be an apology, an acceptable behaviour contract, monetary compensation or compensation in form of work. If the parties are able to reach a settlement, a written agreement is drawn up and the mediation office monitors the implementation of the agreement. The mediation office informs the police and the prosecutor of the outcome of the mediation. A criminal case can be heard by a court even if mediation has taken place.
Further information on mediation may be obtained for example from the police, the local mediation offices and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (www.thl.fi/mediation).
In addition to the victim, who is the injured party, the parties in a trial are the prosecutor and the accused. The district court normally summons all parties and possible witnesses to the trial. The summons will indicate if personal attendance is necessary. If one of those who have been summoned to appear in person is missing, it may be necessary to postpone the trial.
The schedule and other practical questions related to the trial can be discussed with the staff of the district court and the prosecutor or the prosecutor's secretary before the trial. Court sessions are open to the public, but the court can, if the case concerns for example a sex offence, hear the case completely or partially without any public present, i.e. in camera. A request to this effect can be made to the district court judge.
If the court obliges the victim to appear at the trial in person, the victim will be paid per diem allowance and compensation for travel expenses and loss of income. If somebody is absent from the trial without a legal excuse, the court can impose a fine on him or her. A legal excuse can be, for instance, illness preventing attendance. A medical certificate of this must be presented later. The court must be notified of an impediment as early as possible.
Some criminal cases may be considered in the district court in a written procedure. This means that the judge decides on the matter solely on the basis of written material. An oral hearing is not held and the parties are not summoned to court.
Most petty and simple offences may be considered in a written procedure. The written procedure requires that the accused has confessed to the offence and consents to the matter being considered without an oral hearing. Also the victim of the crime must give his or her consent to considering the matter in a written procedure. The victim may present his or her claims for compensation also in a written procedure. The claims must be presented in writing.
For more information on trials, see www.oikeus.fi/en/, the brochure of the Ministry of Justice "Criminal proceedings in district court" available at www.oikeus.fi/en/ and the website of the police at www.poliisi.fi/en.
The district court either pronounces the judgment immediately after the trial or announces when it will be issued. In a written procedure, the judgment of the district court is sent to the parties in the case.
The judgment of the district court may be appealed against to a court of appeal. As a rule, leave for continued consideration is required for the matter to be taken up for full-scale consideration at the court of appeal.
If you are not satisfied with the judgment, you must inform the district court of this within a week after the judgment has been issued. The appeal must be submitted to the district court within 30 days of the judgment. Appeal instructions will be appended to the judgment of the district court.
Help and support
A victim of a crime may need medical assistance or other social welfare and healthcare services, such as emergency social services, hospital treatment and physical and mental rehabilitation. The victim may use these services under the same conditions as all the other clients.
Many organisations also provide support, advice and guidance for crime victims. Victim Support Finland provides assistance in connection with all kinds of offences and criminal proceedings, and they also provide guidance that is necessary for the victim to be able to exercise his or her rights. Victims of intimate partner violence may seek protection and support in shelters. In some municipalities, there is special support available for immigrant women and victims of sex offences. There also exists a separate assistance system for victims of human trafficking. The victims may be admitted to the system under certain conditions.
If the victim consents to it, the police or another criminal investigation authority may forward his or her contact details to the assistance system, which then contacts him or her.
Contact details of the key support services can be found at https://oikeus.fi/en
The victim may have a support person to assist him or her at the different stages of criminal proceedings. The victim himself or herself may choose the support person. Victim Support Finland provides trained support persons free of charge. Support persons are allowed to be present during questionings and trial, but their presence may be restricted in some situations.
The victim has the right to have a legal counsel to assist him or her when reporting an offence, being questioned and attending a trial. The legal counsel may be a private advocate, a public legal aid attorney working at a state legal aid office or a licensed legal counsel.
Low- and middle-income earners may have a possibility to be granted legal aid at the expense of the State. In that case, the fee of the counsel is paid either in part or in full by the State. Legal aid can be applied for at legal aid offices or via the e-services of the judicial administration (www.oikeus.fi/oikeusapu). The victim may also request a law office to apply for legal aid on his or her behalf.
The legal aid office will examine the financial circumstances of the applicant. Legal aid includes, for example, counselling and assistance at the trial. Legal aid can be applied for and granted at any stage of the proceedings.
The court may under certain conditions appoint a legal counsel or a support person for a victim, if the case concerns intimate partner violence, sex offence or a serious offence against life, health or liberty. In that case, the State pays the counsel's or support person's fee irrespective of the victim's income.
Further information is available at www.oikeus.fi/oikeusapu/en.
Everyone has the right to use Finnish or Swedish during a criminal investigation and court proceedings. The Saamis have the right to use the Saami language in their homeland. The authorities must provide interpretation when necessary.
A victim speaking any other language has the right to use a language he or she masters in all situations related to the investigation of the offence. When necessary, the authorities must arrange interpretation to a language the victim masters. The interpreter is subject to the non-disclosure obligation. The interpreter's fee is paid by the State.
The victim may request to receive a translation of certain key documents. An oral translation may be provided if it is not necessary, with regard to the legal safeguards for the victim, to provide a written translation of the document. In some cases, only a part or a summary of the document may be translated for the victim. During the criminal investigation, the victim has the right to receive a translation of a written confirmation of the report of an offence, a decision to discontinue the criminal investigation and, where necessary, of another document essential in the case. From the prosecutor, the victim may obtain a translation of a decision not to prosecute. At the court, the victim may receive a translation of the judgment, a notice concerning the time and place of the trial and, where necessary, of another document essential in the case.
In some cases, the victim may be exposed to intimidation, retaliation or additional suffering due to the criminal procedure. The authorities make an assessment of the victim's special needs for protection during the criminal investigation and trial and of the protection measures required. The assessment is carried out together with the victim, and the victim's personal features and circumstances as well as the nature of the offence are taken into account.
During the criminal investigation, protection measures can be applied if they do not significantly delay the procedure or cause any other harm. One of the possible measures is to conduct questionings in separate facilities designed for that purpose. At the victim's request, the questionings may be conducted by the same person or persons or by a person of the same gender as the victim.
In some cases, the victim may be heard in a trial behind a screen, via video connection or without the defendant or public being present. The questioning of a victim may in some cases be video-recorded and the recording then be used as evidence in a trial, for example if the victim is under 18 years of age.
In order to protect the privacy of the victim, the court may, under certain conditions, hear a case without any public being present and order the trial documents and the judgment to be secret to the extent necessary. The victim may request this at the court. The court may in some cases also order that the identity of the victim be kept secret. This is possible for example in court proceedings related to sex offences.
The court considers the trial arrangements and protection measures always on a case-by-case basis, taking into account that the rights of the defence must not be restricted. The decision of the court may thus deviate from an earlier assessment.
If you feel threatened or harassed, you can apply for a restraining order against the person threatening you. The decision to issue a restraining order is made by a district court. A temporary restraining order with immediate effect may also be issued by the police. All possible evidence of threatening behaviour should be preserved.
If a person protected by a restraining order moves to another EU Member State and feels that he or she needs protection also there, he or she may request the court that issued the original restraining order to issue a European Protection Order.
In serious threatening situations, the victim may request non-disclosure of contact details, non-disclosure for personal safety reasons, or even a change of his or her name or personal identity code. Further information on these measures can be requested from the authorities or the support services for victims.
In certain serious offences, the victim has the right, at his or her request, to be notified if the prisoner or remand prisoner is released, escapes or, under certain conditions, exits the prison for some other reason. If the victim wishes to receive such a notification, he or she must inform the criminal investigation authority or prosecutor of this during the criminal proceedings. The criminal investigation authority provides further information on the matter.
If the court has obliged the offender to pay damages, the victim may either come to an agreement with him or her on the payment arrangements or let an enforcement officer recover the compensation. A copy of the court decision, which can be obtained free of charge from the registry of the district court, and an application for enforcement must be submitted to the local enforcement office. Further information on how to apply for compensation is also provided there.
Compensation may also be obtained from the State Treasury, an insurance company or the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. The possibilities to receive compensation vary from case to case.
Some crime victims are entitled to receive state-funded compensation for damages caused by the offence. Compensation is paid as a rule for personal injury and suffering. The state-funded compensation is granted by virtue of the Act on Compensation for Crime Damage, and it is paid by the State Treasury.
To be able to receive compensation, the victim must have reported the offence to the police. If the case is heard by a court, the victim must present the claim for compensation to the offender at the court. Compensation must be applied for within three years from the date of the final judgment in the compensation matter. If the case has not been heard by a court, compensation must be applied for within ten years of the commission of the offence. Compensation may be applied for even if the judgment is not yet final.
Compensation is granted, as a rule, on the grounds laid down in the Tort Liability Act, but the Act on Compensation for Crime Damage deviates in some respects from the provisions of the Tort Liability Act. If the State Treasury deviates from the decision issued by the court in the compensation matter, it must state grounds for this in its decision.
The state-funded compensation is secondary in nature, which means that the compensation that the victim has received or will receive by virtue of some other act or insurance will be deducted from the compensation granted by the State. The compensation that the offender has paid to the victim will also be deducted from it. The victim can, however, apply for compensation directly from the State Treasury without first having to try to recover the compensation from the offender.
State-funded compensation is applied for at the State Treasury. The court decision or the criminal investigation record of the police as well as any medical certificates and other reliable accounts indicating the extent of the damages must be appended to the application. Application forms and further information are available at the State Treasury (www.statetreasury.fi/).
Information for crime victims, contact details of the police departments, and the electronic form for reporting an offence.
- In an emergency, call 112.
General emergency number: 112
Information on courts, prosecutors, legal aid and enforcement. Contact details of the local authorities, information on using the services of the judicial system, and forms.
Legal aid, legal aid offices:
Information on legal aid and applying for legal aid, and contact details of the legal aid offices. E-services also available.
Information on state-funded compensation for crime damage and applying for the compensation as well as the application form. Customer service available online and by telephone, tel. 0295 50 2736.
Information on mediation in criminal and civil cases. Contact details of the mediation offices.
Social welfare and healthcare services:
Information on the social welfare and healthcare services provided by the municipalities. The victim may use these services under the same conditions as all the other clients.
Information on shelters, where persons who have experienced violence or threat of violence can receive protection and assistance in order to end the violence. Contact details of the 24-hour shelters, some of which are maintained by municipalities and some of which are maintained by different organisations.
Assistance system for victims of human trafficking:
Information on the assistance system for victims of human trafficking and admittance to it. Joutseno Reception Centre, tel. 029 546 3177.
Victim Support Finland
Support for all victims of crime, including witnesses and friends and family of the victim. Assistance and advice necessary for victims to be able to exercise their rights in the criminal procedure. National helpline, legal advice, online support service. Provision of support persons as a regional service form.
- National Helpline: 116 006 (free of charge)
- Legal advice: 0800 161 177 (free of charge)
A nationwide free-of-charge 24/7 helpline against domestic violence and violence against women: 080 005 005
Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters
Shelter services for persons who have been exposed to violence or threat of violence in their families or intimate relationships and need support to survive the situation and a temporary place to live in. Different types of community care services for solving a crisis caused by domestic violence and for overcoming the crisis. Telephone counselling, opportunity to discuss with an expert in anti-violence work, guided peer support groups, and supportive housing services.
Online family shelter
An online service provided by the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters to help all parties suffering from violence.
Rape crisis centre Tukinainen
Support and guidance for victims of sexual violence and/or abuse and their families and friends. Also an online assistance service.
- Crisis telephone: 0800 97899
- Legal advice: 0800 97895
MONIKA - Multicultural Women’s Association, Finland
Low threshold services, legal advice and shelter for immigrant women and children who have been exposed to violence. Service available in several different languages, also the support person service.
- National helpline: 09 692 2304
- Shelter Mona: 045 639 6274 (24 hours)
Guidance and support for women and girls concerned about violence. Information available online and by telephone. Tel. 0800 02400.
HUOMA - Association of families and friends of homicide victims
Peer support for families and friends of homicide victims, tel. 050 401 2230.
The Finnish Association for Mental Health
Help in different crisis situations.
- Crisis telephone: 010 195 202
Crisis centre online
Help in everyday crises.
Suvanto – For a Safe Old Age
Help, peer support and legal advice for elderly people against violence and mistreatment.
- SUVANTO helpline: 0800 06776
Support and help in crises for young people, families with children, and senior citizens.
- Helpline for young people, tel. 045 341 0583
- Telephone service Aamukorva for senior citizens, tel. 045 341 0504 (every morning at 5 - 9).