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Legal experts deem many driving bans illegal

The severity of a speeding offence invariably also depends on the road conditions, reminds senior officer Timo Jaakkola.

Professors of criminal and procedural law estimate that the imposition of a driving ban in addition to a speeding fine infringes the European Convention on Human Rights and, in particular, the right not to be punished twice for the same offence – a key principle of international criminal law.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Finland ruled in 2012 that if a motorist has been found guilty of three speeding offences within one year, the driving ban imposed in the consequent administrative procedure does not constitute a second punishment for the same offence.

The minimum duration of such a driving ban is one month and the maximum five years, depending on the degree of the violation.

“The interpretation adopted in Finland that [a driving ban] is only a preventive measure is dubious and problematic. Driving bans are comparable to criminal sanctions, when you take into consideration the effective severity of the driving ban for the suspect,” argues Sakari Melander, an assistant professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki.

A preventive measure is a measure enforced by an administrative authority limiting the rights or freedoms of a suspect for the protection of public interests.

“The driving ban procedure is at the very least problematic and can't be justified as a preventive measure. Three speeding violations within one year could be the grounds for a stiffer punishment but not for a new punishment enforced in an administrative procedure,” says Jussi Tapani, a professor of criminal law at the University of Turku.

The problem, he underlines, could be addressed by imposing the fine or prison sentence and driving ban in the same legal proceedings. Thereby, it would also be possible to weigh up the severity of the punishment as a whole.

Melander agrees, viewing that the severity of the entire punishment should be taken into consideration also in the case of a serious traffic violation.

If a motorist is convicted of two counts of causing a serious traffic hazard within five years, a driving ban of a minimum of one year will be imposed in addition to a fine or prison sentence. “If you live in a remote area, a driving ban of a minimum of one year can complicate your life notably,” Melander points out.

Petri Sajari – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Rio Gandara / HS