The number of suspected hate crimes levelled out in Finland in 2016.
The Police University College reported late last month that a total of 1,079 offences with at least some characteristics of hate crimes were filed with law enforcement authorities last year, representing a decrease of 14 per cent from the previous year. The number of such offences reported to the authorities stood at 1,250 in 2015 and at 822 in 2014.
The majority of the offences investigated last year were somehow related to ethnic or national background. The most common form of hate crime, meanwhile, was assault, according to a press release from the Police University College.
Although the overall number of suspected hate crimes decreased from the previous year, the number of offences motivated seemingly by the religious or other beliefs of the victim increased by 12 per cent from the previous year to 149 in 2016. Almost half of such offences were committed against Islam.
The incidence of offences motivated seemingly by the ethnic or national background of the victim, in turn, decreased by roughly seven per cent to 831 in 2016. The number of offences motivated seemingly by sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression decreased similarly, but only by four from the previous year.
Finnish law enforcement authorities also looked into 42 offences – 23 fewer than in the previous year – where the suspected motive was related to a mental or physical disability.
The Police University College also highlighted that the amount of hate speech on the internet and, especially, on social media has increased inrecent years to the extent that law enforcement officers no longer have the resources to respond to all cases.
The Police of Finland has, however, already taken action to weed out online hate speech, having established a new team to investigate online hate speech under the Helsinki Police Department, and having begun training 40 police officers around the country to detect hate speech and advise their colleagues in regards to cases related to hate speech.
“We aim to comprehensively ensure that the hate motive is taken into consideration at all stages of the pre-trial investigation so that the prosecutor will be able to demand the statutory grounds for increasing the severity of the punishment,” states Måns Enqvist, a superintendent at the National Police Board.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva