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What is a racist crime? Advice for victims

Racism is not only a problem for individuals and the society, it has an extensive impact on various areas of society. There is support and help available for victims.

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Sometimes a racist act or discrimination meet the statutory definition of a crime. However, the line is not always clear. On this page we tell you about racist crimes, their legal consequences and about seeking help.

If you suspect that you have fallen victim to a racist crime, you must contact the police and make a report of the crime. If you suspect discrimination you should contact the Office of the Non-discrimination Ombudsman. You can get support and practical advice about, for example, making a report of the crime from the Victim Support Finland.

Racist crimes in Finnish law and legal consequences

In Finnish legislation a racist crime does not have its own criminal classification, but for example assault, agitation against a population group or defamation can be considered as racist acts.

In racist crimes, the act is directed against an individual or a group because of the ethnic background, skin colour, culture, or other similar reason. The motives in racist crimes are racist acts which in practice can be very different.

If the case goes to trial and the defendant is convicted, the racist motive can constitute a basis for increasing the punishment. If, for example, the motive for an assault is racism directed against the victim, the punishment can be increased. The basis for increasing the punishment is that racist crimes are considered to be directed against minorities who need special protection.

Sanctions in racist crimes can range from fines to imprisonment, and the victim may be entitled to compensation.

Regarding discrimination, the matter is also regulated by the Non-discrimination Act and the Equality Act. With the help of the Non-discrimination Ombudsman a discrimination case might be taken up in the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal. It is an independent and impartial judicial body that supervises compliance with the Non-Discrimination Act and the Equality Act in private activities and in public administrative and commercial activities.

Different racist crimes

Racist crimes are united by the fact that the criminal act is directed against the object due to ethnic background, skin colour, culture, or other similar reason. In practice, very different types of acts can be considered as racist crimes. They can, for example, be:

  • Defamation or illegal threat in form of verbal racism: For example, shouting or name calling
  • Discrimination at work
  • Agitation against a population in form of racist posts on social media.
  • Assault: Physical violence linked to racist motives

Although the criminal line is not always clear, racism and discrimination have a psychological effect on people who are subjected to it. Racism affects victims in many ways, and victims of racism may need special support.

Report the crime and seek help

In 2022 the police registered 1,245 criminal reports about suspected hate crimes. That is 21 percent more than in 2021. Three out of four criminal reports were suspected crimes, and the motives were linked to the victim’s ethnic or national background. Read more: Police University College: Hate crimes

Many hate crimes and discrimination crimes are never reported.

According to the Ministry of Justice’s investigation in Finland in 2022, only about 30 percent of those who were subjected to harassment or hate speech reported this somewhere. Read more: Survey on Hate Speech and Harassment and Their Effects on Different Minority Groups (in Finnish)

The threshold for making a criminal report can be high because of the mistrust and exclusion that people with a foreign background, ethnical minorities and racialized people may experience in society.

Everybody has the right to equal treatment. The basic rights guaranteed by Finnish law apply to all people in Finland. All victims of crime also have the right to support services where questions related to the crime can be discussed confidentially.

The Victim Support Finland provides practical advice and support in the criminal procedure.

If you need an interpreter, you should mention this already in the contact request. Victim Support Finland considers various situations as, for example, concerns related to residence permits.

Read more

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