According to the decision (1510/2021, in Finnish) of the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland, issued on Tuesday 25 October 2022, the fundamental problem causing the current delay in pre-trial investigations is the insufficiency of resources in relation to the number of tasks. The Parliamentary Ombudsman emphasises that key issues in the pre-trial investigation, and the functioning of the entire processing chain of criminal matters, are legal certainty and the state’s core functions, which should be reflected in the focusing of decisions on resources.
The duration of pre-trial investigations has drawn attention, and been subjected to scrutiny, on several occasions in the past few years. The investigation times of offences have been closely monotored and the pre-trial investigation process has been developed by the National Police Board at the national level as well as in all police units. The police have not remained inactive in the case, but taken the matter seriously and carried out comprehensive development measures, including in relation to the operational processes and investigation arrangements. Staff competence has been enhanced to enable the management of more challenging duties and attention has been paid to well-being at work. The crimes investigated are processed in police units on a centralised basis in the pre-processing of offences, for the purpose of ensuring fair and appropriate processing of criminal matters. In addition to the aforementioned, a range of development measures have been carried out and these development efforts will be actively continued. This is also reflected in the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s decision.
Changes in the operating environment
The operating environment of the police and criminal investigation has changed considerably in recent years. Digitalisation and information networks are linked to an increasing number of criminal investigations. At the same time, criminal investigations have become more international and higher quality requirements are imposed on investigations. Several legal reforms have had a considerable overall impact on the duration of investigations. The police do not want to, and cannot compromise the investigation of serious offences, and it goes without saying, that high-quality investigation is time-consuming. We are still doing quite well in the investigation of serious offences, even in international comparison, even though we must make allowances in the investigation of so-called everyday crimes and investigation times.
Crime prevention today involves much more than pre-trial investigation of offences. The prevention of crimes and combating of serious threats uses up a lot of resources, not only in criminal investigation, but the police administration as a whole. The internal security situation has also changed, and various threats and serious phenomena are almost commonplace. These cannot be ignored, and must be taken seriously. Preventive work by the police is performed in broad multi-authority action, but still with very limited resources.
The police are not alone in this situation, since the lack of resources applies to all security and pre-trial investigation authorities. The entire processing chain of criminal matters, and the authorities involved in it, must be functional in order to maintain citizens’ confidence in the judicial system. The police still want to do their job as well as possible, and prevent and investigate crimes. However, in the development of the pre-trial investigation process, we are facing a situation in which a significant change for the better, towards quicker investigation, is not possible based on the current resources.
National Police Board
See the previous blog by Assistant Police Commissioner Minna Ketola: How is criminal investigation in the police doing?