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Crime against life

A sudden death puts the victim’s loved ones in a difficult situation. The grief is great, while many practical things must be taken care of systematically. This page provides practical information on the necessary measures and support services for the victim’s loved ones.

Crime against life means causing another person’s death by using violence. The most common offences in the Finnish Criminal Code, which include the death of another person caused by violence, are murder, manslaughter, killing, infanticide and a combination of aggravated assault and negligent homicide.

Relatives of victims of crime against life are indirect victims of the crime. They shall have access to all the same services as victims in general. In crimes against life, loved ones have to face both massive trauma and grief. The spectrum of emotions is very wide. For example, the victim’s loved ones may feel hatred, bitterness, depression, extreme grief, shame, and desire for revenge. The emotions can be conflicting, and everyone reacts in their own way, regardless of the relationship with the victim.

The so-called trauma work and grief work are mixed up in the human mind and mood swings are common. Some recover better and others may never recover fully.

The gradual development of a traumatic crisis is not straightforward. For example, new trials in higher courts, reminders of the incident, death among acquaintances, or other crimes against life dealt with in the media may cause anxiety and other symptoms. Situations vary from person to person. Read more: Mieli.fi: Shokista uuteen alkuun (in Swedish and Finnish)

Physical, psychological, and social consequences

Symptoms are often also associated with the development of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, which means that recovery is prevented or significantly slowed down. You sort of get stuck in the emotions during the crises phase. Trauma prevents the natural grieving process from starting and progressing. Untreated trauma is a risk to both mental and physical health and can cause long-term incapacity for work or interruption of studies, for example.

It is common for the victim’s loved ones to also experience physical symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, aches, pain, shortness of breath, heart symptoms, and high blood pressure. Existing conditions can be activated and get worse when the person’s pain tolerance is impaired due to traumatic stress. In addition, loved ones may experience insomnia, nightmares, loss of appetite, and a feeling of thirst and cold.

Typical social consequences may include overactivity, exclusion from everything, difficulty concentrating at work and other activities, memory difficulties, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, isolation from other people and abuse of substances.

What compensations are the victim’s loved ones entitled to?

The victim’s loved ones may face financial difficulties if, for example, the victim of the crime against life was the main provider of the family or if prolonged sick leave or permanent incapacity for work weakens the economy. In addition, funeral costs, therapy costs and other costs resulting from the crime against life cause additional expenses.

The victim’s close relatives are entitled to compensation for certain damages provided for in the Act on Compensation for Crime Damage as a result of the death of a close relative.

Compensation from the offender

It is advisable to claim for compensation from the offender in connection to the trial. If the victim’s relatives have an attorney, the attorney will help with the claim for compensation.

You can collect compensation from the offender voluntarily or through enforcement. Some claims of compensation can be applied for directly from the State Treasury without attempting to recover them from the offender.

When preparing the claim for compensation, the nature of any expenses incurred by the loved ones as a result of the crime and the death shall be carefully clarified. It is important to save all receipts on expenses, but claims can be made even if you do not have all receipts.

Normally, the attorney submits the claim for compensation in writing by submitting the claim to the District Court and from there to the defendant for notification already before the trial.

The State Treasury may pay part of the damages

The State Treasury may pay compensation in accordance with the Act on Compensation for Crime Damage to the victim’s relatives. These may include:

  • Funeral expenses according to reasonable costs, such as coffin, burial place, memorial, obituary. Costs arising from the administration of an estate, such as estate inventory, are not reimbursable as funeral expenses.
  • Expenses related to the funeral, including travel expenses for the next of kin, flower arrangements and mourning clothes.
  • Healthcare costs, therapy costs and medical rehabilitation costs directly related to healthcare. For example, therapy costs should be highlighted already at during the trial, even if the therapy has only begun and the total costs are not yet known.
  • Loss of income, if the victim’s loved ones have had to take unpaid sick leave, for example.
  • Loss of maintenance (for under-age children).
  • Legal costs, in some cases. Read more: The State Treasury: Compensation for legal proceedings and application.

Furthermore, according to the Act on Compensation for Crime Damage, The State Treasury does not compensate the mental suffering caused by the death to the deceased’s loved ones.  If the court has ordered compensation for mental suffering, the compensation may be recovered from the offender through enforcement.

A family member of a victim of crime against life should always turn to a lawyer. You can also ask for advice from Victim Support Finland.

Uhrin omaisen oikeus korvauksiin | Huoma ry
The State Treasury
Compensation for criminal damages

Recovery

After a crime against life, it may be good for some loved ones to take a break from work to get through the most acute stage, to calmly deal with everything and take care of practical matters. Once recovery has started, it is good to think about returning to work because routines often contribute to recovery.

Some return to work quickly, while it may take years for others. Some will never be able to return to work.

What helps the recovery of victims’ loved ones

  • Professional assistance, such as emergency assistance, individual psychotherapy, services of Victim Support Finland and professionally mentored peer support groups
  • Long-term opportunity for conversation for those who feel it helps
  • Meeting others in the same situation
  • Support from loved ones
  • The fact that someone is by your side, keeping everything together and makes sure that everything is taken care of. Dealing with practical matters related to death can be overwhelming.
  • Reminding loved ones of their own sources of power, such as religion, nature, music, pets, exercise, ways to calm down before sleep, or anything that felt good in the past.

Practical matters related to death

Funeral

During all the shock and grief, arranging the funeral may feel like an overwhelming task. However, there is help available. Funeral homes often provide all the services necessary for the practical arrangements related to death.

A funeral permit from a doctor is always required to bury the deceased. In crimes against life, a forensic autopsy is always carried out to determine the cause of death. Depending on the location, this may take a few weeks. The doctor who performed the autopsy issues a death certificate and a funeral permit.

Arranging a funeral can be surprisingly expensive. The deceased’s own funds are not always sufficient to arrange the funeral. Funeral grant can be paid from the pension provider if the deceased’s employer has a supplementary pension insurance. You can also ask the deceased’s employer or the pension provider for a funeral grant. Some unions grant funeral grants. If the conditions for income support are met, funeral grant may also be granted from the city’s social services.

In addition, you can also apply for support from your own congregation’s deacon work. You can apply for compensation for funeral expenses and funeral related costs from the State Treasury in accordance with the compensation system for crime damages.

Other practical matters to be taken care of

  • mail redirection
  • termination of magazine subscriptions, agreements, and memberships
  • online services (e.g. social media, streaming services)
  • bank
  • insurance company
  • tax authority
  • termination of tenancy agreement
  • estate inventory

The estate inventory meeting has to be arranged within three months of the date of death but can request for extended time for this. Vero.fi: Extended time for the estate inventory

The next kin must inform the following, among others, of the death:

  • relatives and friends (the police only inform one close relative)
  • the employer
  • the housing company
  • some social media services where the deceased had an account (e.g. Facebook)

More information on funeral, death and related arrangements and inheritance tax

Leskiopas – opas nuorena leskeytyneelle (in Finnish)
The Finnish Association of Funeral Services – Instructions for the family
The Tax Administration – inheritance

Huoma ry – vertaistukea henkirikoksen uhrin läheiselle (in Finnish)

Huoma – Henkirikoksen uhrien läheiset ry offers peer support to persons whose loved on has been deliberately killed by another person, for example, as victims of manslaughter or murder. The association offers service guidance, shares information, and strives to improve the position of the victims’ loved ones. Huoma.fi

Helping instances and additional information

Victim Support Finland 116 006 and RIKUchat

Victim Support Finland has service points in 31 locations. You can find more information about  here.

Victim Support Finland provides a free support person to help you understand and manage practical matters and support you throughout the legal process. The support person may attend various government meetings and court proceedings. Support person from the service point

Huoma – Henkirikoksen uhrien läheiset ry – 050 401 2230 (in Finnish)
Opas henkirikoksen uhrin läheiselle | Huoma ry (in Finnish)
MIELI Mental Health Finland – national crisis helpline 09 2525 0111
Legal-aid office Legal-aid Offices provide free advice on the type of legal issues you will be faced with.
The church’s discussion support
Suomen Nuoret Lesket ry (in Finnish)
Child Death Families Finland Käpy ry
Surunauha – peer support after a loved one’s suicide
Toivon polulla -vertaistukiryhmät läheisensä menettäneille | Mieli ry (på finska)

Sources

Kun henkirikos koskettaa – käsikirja henkirikosten uhrien läheisten kohtaamiseen (2017) (in Finnish and Swedish), Opas henkirikoksen uhrin läheiselle | Huoma ry (in Finnish), Uhrin omaisen oikeus korvauksiin | Huoma ry (in Finnish)

Read more

Henkirikoksen aiheuttama trauma (in Finnish)
Käytännön oikeusopas väkivaltarikoksen uhrille (päivitetty 2021) (in Finnish and Swedish)
Compensation in criminal damages

On the subject elsewhere

Traumaattinen suru | Mieli ry (in Finnish and Swedish)
Äkillinen järkyttävä tapahtuma | Mieli ry (in Finnish and Swedish)
Kriisit kuuluvat elämään | Mieli ry (in Finnish and Swedish)
Suru on osa elämää | Mieli ry (in Finnish and Swedish)
Uhrin omaisen oikeus korvauksiin | Huoma ry (in Finnish)