Handling cases in the district court
A trial date for the case is determined, which is when the actual oral proceedings is held at the district court. The district court shall request the child’s parent or guardian to inform the court of justice in writing the demands that they place upon the prosecuted. An attorney shall help with delivering the demands.
The victim and witness are summoned to the trial. The summons shall indicate, whether you need to be personally present at the trial. A plaintiff personally arriving to court is entitled to bring a support person as well as an attorney to the trial. A support person can be asked from Victim Support Finland.
A child does not usually have to be personally present, when he/she is under the age of 15 at the time of the trial and the questioning has been recorded on an audio or video recording during the preliminary investigation. During the trial, the child is heard by watching or listening to the audio and video recording.
If a child under the age of 15 has been subject to a crime, the parent or another legal representative (e.g. guardian) represents the victim during preliminary investigations and during the trial and uses the victim’s right of speech. A minor, who has turned 15 years, has the right to independently use his/her right of speech alongside his/her representative. If the child has turned 15 at the time of the trial, he/she is usually questioned personally, even if an audio and video recording exists.
When a child over the age of 15 years is heard at court, it is possible to use special arrangements to protect the child. The victim can, for example, be heard so that that the prosecuted person is removed from the court room for the duration of the questioning. In this case, the prosecuted person shall be in another room, where he/she can hear the victim’s account, but cannot see the victim. In some district courts, there are also portable screens to protect the sight connection between the defendant and the victim. In modern court rooms, there are witness stands, where the victim can sit behind a mirror glass, and the defendant cannot see him/her. In some more exceptional cases, it is possible to hear the victim or witness via video connection, in which case he/she does not need to enter the court room at all.
You should discuss the questioning with a lawyer in advance and you can contact the Court of Justice. If necessary, a child can be arranged the possibility to visit the court premises before the trial.
The parents are not obliged to be present at the time of the trial, when the child is questioned. The presence of the parents at the time of the trial is agreed separately with the child or young person. If the child has told about his/he experiences to his/her parents, it is good to prepare for the fact that the parents may be heard during the trial for witness purposes.
Trials concerning the sexual exploitation of children are usually arranged behind closed doors. In this case, third parties are not allowed in the court room. The victim’s identity and documents concerning the case, as well as the verdict can be ordered to be kept confidential. The name of the accused, the crime he/she has been convicted for, the ordered compensation and punishment are however always public information.
Parties who are not satisfied with the district court’s decision can appeal to the Court of Appeal, and if necessary, apply for the permission to appeal from the Supreme Court. More information on how the trial proceeds and other questions related to the criminal procedure can be find in our FAQ section as well as out Criminal Procedure section.