A 24-year-old man and woman were sentenced to at least three years each in prison. The female defendant is pictured in Helsinki Regional Court on 26 May. Kimmo Nuotio, a professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki, is deep in thought after perusing the verdict delivered against a young man and woman for a conspiracy to carry out a killing spree at the University of Helsinki.

The two defendants on 26 June became the first in Finland to be convicted of the preparation of an aggravated offence against the health and life of others, after its criminalisation roughly a year ago.

Although Nuotio has confidence in the merits of the law, he is also concerned about its implications for the defendants. "As first-time offenders, they'll serve 18 months. Their names and faces have been made public. What will their future be like, will they apply for a study place – people whose sole goal in life has been death?"

"It's quite the challenge to encourage people like these, who have no clear plan for their life but who are not offenders, to move on in their life," Nuotio highlights.

Although the verdict suggests that the threat posed by the duo was genuine, Nuotio believes the conspirators would have been caught even without the recent legislative change.

The professor was one of several experts heard by the Administration Committee of the Parliament before the criminalisation of the preparation of aggravated offences.

Calls for the criminalisation intensified in 2007, when the lack of penal provisions prevented the police from intervening while a robbery gang was devising a plan to stick up a cash transport truck in Lieto, Varsinais-Suomi. The fact that a special police unit instead had to wait for the gang to move cost an estimated 100,000 euros, according to the Helsinki Police Department.

Ultimately, the criminalisation of the preparation of aggravated offences was entered into the programme of the Government of Jyrki Katainen (NCP).

"As such, the legislative change was necessary, but it was difficult to implement due to the complexity of criminalising preparation. We had an idea that we should seek to describe the acts. It's not enough that something was discussed or considered," Nuotio explains.

Nuotio also emphasises that Finland should not expect the law to prevent crime. "I'm not sure whether these young people even knew that such a law existed," he says.

Jussi Sippola – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva