Finns have widely expressed their outrage and bafflement with a recent ruling in a case against a 23-year-old man who had intercourse with a ten-year-old girl.
The Turku Court of Appeal ruled last week that the defendant was guilty of aggravated child sexual abuse but not of aggravated rape and sentenced him to three years in prison, thus upholding a ruling issued in March by the District Court of Pirkanmaa.
The defendant was acquitted of the charge of aggravated rape on grounds that the defence was unable to substantiate its claim that the victim had been unable to defend herself and express her lack of consent because she was in a state of fear and helplessness at the time of the act, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
Jussi Tapani, a professor of criminal law at the University of Turku, and Matti Tolvanen, a professor of criminal law at the University of Eastern Finland, estimate in an interview with the newspaper that the case could ultimately warrant the attention of the Supreme Court of Finland.
Both of them indicated that the criminal code fails to unambiguously define the grounds for determining that the victim was in a state of fear or other state of helplessness.
“The Supreme Court should set a precedent on whether or not a ten-year-old can be ruled to be able to express their will in circumstances such as these. I’m personally of the opinion that a ten-year-old would be unable to understand the matter and thereby defend themselves against an adult,” comments Tolvanen.
Tapani also estimates that the sentence handed to the offender would have been one to two years longer if he had also been found guilty of aggravated rape.
District Prosecutor Leena Koivuniemi, however, says she is satisfied with the ruling delivered by the Turku Court of Appeal, admitting that it was debatable whether sufficient evidence of aggravated rape had been produced.
“I’m able to accept that the court rejected the charge [of aggravated rape],” she tells Helsingin Sanomat.
The case has also prompted a reaction from several policy makers.
Members of the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, for example, have voiced their support for calls to revise the legislation in a way that the case of the ten-year-old girl would meet the essential elements of rape, reports YLE.
“I’m in favour of revising the criminal code in a way that a victim’s lack of consent is enough to meet the essential elements of rape. The current law requires that violence or the threat of violence is used,” says Sanna Marin (SDP).
Kari Tolvanen (NCP), the chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, states to the public broadcasting company that the criminal code should be revised to raise the minimum punishment for child sexual abuse from one to two years in prison.
“The legislative change would raise punishments for aggravated sex crimes against children across the board, which in my mind would be justifiable due to the vulnerability of children even if the act didn’t meet the essential elements of rape,” explained Tolvanen.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva