Criminal courts of the first instance were of two
having jurisdiction in distinct areas and each following
procedures. The first type of court provided criminal
thirty "old towns," including Helsinki. These
town courts consisted of three professional judges--one of
presided--and two lay jurors from the city council.
courts, the second type, exercised jurisdiction in rural
districts and in cities incorporated after 1958. The
category included Espoo and Vantaa, Finland's fourth and
largest cities, respectively, located in the greater
metropolitan area. More than 140 circuit courts in 71
districts formed this system. Circuit courts were
conducted by a
professional judge, assisted by five to seven jurors
the term of the court by the local municipal council.
prosecutors for both kinds of courts determined whether to
charges against persons accused of offenses solely on the
of evidence presented by police investigation.
Criminal cases were heard in continuous sessions by
types of courts of the first instance. Verdicts were
by the vote of the panel of judges and jurors. A
majority was sufficient in three-member town courts. In
courts, however, the verdict of the presiding judge
the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. Measures
pending in 1988 to harmonize court procedures.
Cases involving criminal offenses by on-duty members of
Defense Forces were tried in fifteen special courts of the
instance presided over by a panel of military judges.
courts-martial were integrated into the criminal courts
Appeals from the courts of the first instance were
six three-member regional courts of appeal that were also
responsible for supervising the lower courts. When a panel
considered appeals from courts-martial, two military
added. About two-thirds of the business of appeals courts
involved criminal cases. The Supreme Court, which
in panels of five members, handled final appeals from
cases. Permission to appeal was, however, granted by a
threemember panel. Because of a tendency by the Supreme Court
the cases reviewed to those having value as precedents,
courts of appeal had become increasingly important in
Criminal actions were preceded by a police pretrial
investigation. A suspect could be detained by the police
questioning, without access to a lawyer, for three days;
period could be extended to fourteen days, for special
proper authority and with notification to the court.
scheduled to take effect on January 1, 1989, shortened the
maximum detention to seven days, with access to a lawyer.
institutions of habeas corpus and bail did not exist as
Those accused of serious crimes were required to remain in
custody. Those accused of minor offenses could be released
personal recognizance at the court's discretion.
detention was authorized only during a declared state of
variously defined offenses, such as treason or mutiny.
Court proceedings were conducted by the presiding
normally also questioned witnesses. The entire written
record was used as the basis for proceedings in the courts
appeals. Oral hearings were conducted only in those
cases in which courts of appeal had original jurisdiction,
as criminal charges against certain high officials.
accused nor his counsel was present when a case was
the court of appeal. An accused person had the right to
counsel. Persons lacking sufficient funds were entitled to
proceedings so that their attorneys' fees and direct costs
borne by the state. Local courts could decide to conduct a
behind closed doors in juvenile, domestic, or guardianship
or when publicity would offend morality or endanger state
Data as of December 1988