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Documentation of statistics Prosecutions, sentences and punishments

23.9.2022 valid documentation

Basic data of the statistics

Data description

The statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments contain data on the sentences issued and waived and charges dismissed by district courts and courts of appeal, and on cases lapsed. In addition to the prosecutions at district courts and courts of appeal, the statistics also include the summary penal fines issued by the prosecutor and the fine orders and petty fines issued by the police. As a rule, a person is recorded in the statistics as many times as aforementioned decisions have been made about them. Another main mode of recording applied in these statistics is the principal offence rule,  under which each defendant or convicted person is described by the most serious offence under the most severe type of punishment provided for the offence.

The statistics also contain data on decisions by courts of appeal and how the district court decisions were changed in the courts of appeal. The tables on courts of appeal decisions are in accordance with the principal offence rule.

Data on recidivism are also published. Decisions on criminal cases issued by lower courts (district courts) since 1977 are used as basic data on recidivism.

Statistical population

The statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments are based on total data. The data are obtained from three different registers. The registers are maintained by the police and the Legal Register Centre.

The decisions issued by district courts and courts of appeal are obtained from the criminal matters application (RITU). RITU was introduced on 20 May 2013 and it replaced the sentence matter system (TL) of the district courts and courts of appeal.

Summary penal orders issued by prosecutors are obtained from the AIPA system of the Ministry of Justice (from 1 December 2016). Fine orders and petty fines issued by the police are obtained from the PATJA system of the police (from 1 December 2016). The new procedure for issuing fines was introduced on 1 December 2016. Before that, summary penal orders were obtained from the penal order register and petty fines from the petty fines register.

Between 1990 and summer 2017, Statistics Finland used the sentence matter system for Statistics Finland (TUTI). The TUTI application was used in the processing of summary penal orders and sentence documents. The application was withdrawn from use in summer 2017.

Statistical unit

The following persons are included in the statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments:

  • persons charged with an offence in courts of appeal

  • persons charged with an offence in the main process of district courts

  • persons charged with an offence in courts of appeal acting as courts of first instance

  • persons issued with a summary penal order or a fine order

  • persons issued with a petty fine

  • and persons that have been sentenced to a punishment in a criminal case as injured parties, witnesses or experts.

The cases are presented in the statistics in accordance with the principal offence rule. Principal offence is a concept used in the compilation of statistics. Principal offence is the most serious offence of the sentence. 
The number of offences attributed to a person and the number of dismissed charges by offence are also presented in the statistics, and in these cases the person appears in the statistics as many times as there are court decisions concerning them during the year.
The principal offence of the sentence is specified when the decision on the defendant concerns more than one offence or dismissed charge. If the decision on the defendant only concerns one offence or dismissed charge, it constitutes the principal offence of the sentence. The principal offence is specified in accordance as follows.

1. The principal offence is the offence that has resulted in the most severe punishment. The order of punishment is as follows:

  • life imprisonment

  • combination sentence

  • fixed-term unconditional imprisonment

  • an earlier unconditional imprisonment also applies to this offence

  • monitoring sentence

  • community service

  • earlier community service also applies to this offence

  • juvenile punishment

  • conditional imprisonment

  • close confinement

  • confinement to barracks

  • fine

  • disciplinary fine

  • petty fine

  • caution or reprimand

  • waiving of sentence

  • charge is dismissed

  • case has lapsed

  • euro-denominated penalty payment

2. If the principal offence has not yet been determined, the offence with the most severe punishment under the law is selected as the principal offence.

3. If there are offences with the same punishment, the principal offence is selected using the priority rules of types of crime.

In offences meeting criteria 1, 2 or 3, the latest or (in the case of more than one offence) one of the latest offences is selected.

Summary penal orders and fine orders: If the fine has been issued for two or more offences, the principal offence of the summary penal order or fine order is determined using the above-mentioned criteria 2 or 3.

Petty fines: Only one type of offence and one legal provision used as a basis for the fine are obtained from basic statistical data, and the principal offence is thus not specified. From 1 December 2016, the principal offence has been determined in the same manner as a summary penal order or a fine order. If the fine has been issued for two or more offences, the principal offence of the petty fine is determined using the above-mentioned criteria 2 and 3.

Even though the principal offence of the sentence is the most commonly used statistical unit, the number of all offences attributed to a person and dismissed charges by offence can also be obtained from the statistics.

Unit of measure

The following units of measure are used for the data published in the statistics: number, month, day, hour and euro.

Reference period

The statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments are produced annually and are completed in September in the year following the statistical year. The data are final and describe the sentences and other criminal sanctions imposed during the preceding calendar year.

Reference area

The statistics cover the sentences issued by district courts and courts of appeal by court and by court of appeal district. 

Sector coverage

The data sets cover all cases considered by district courts and courts of appeal, in which persons were charged with and sentenced for offences, and punishments and other criminal sanctions imposed by these courts, charges dismissed by them, and cases lapsed. The data also cover the summary penal orders issued by the prosecutor, and fine orders and petty fines issued by the police.

Time coverage

Annual data on sentences are available on the websites from 2005 onwards. Older publications can be found in digitised format in the Doria service.

The statistics have been published since 1891 in the Official Statistics of Finland series OSF XXIII and Justice under the following titles:
  • 1891–1916 Oikeustoimi (Legal process)
  • 1917–1924 Oikeustilasto (Legal statistics)
  • 1925–1926 Rikollisuus (Crime)
  • 1927–1937 Rikollisuus II. Syytetyt (Crime II. Individuals charged with offences)
  • 1938–1950 Rikollisuus II (Crime II)
  • 1951–1954 Criminal statistics B. Judicial statistics relating to criminal proceedings
  • –1990 Criminal cases tried by the courts (OSF XXIIIB or Justice)
  • 1991–2009 Yearbook of Justice Statistics (section 6) (Justice)
For the period 1839 to 1879, handwritten statistics were produced by the Imperial Finnish Senate. The first printed and published statistics on justice and crime are included in the report on criminal and civil cases for 1880 issued by the Imperial Finnish Senate. The report was published in Helsinki in 1882.

Frequency of dissemination

The statistics are published annually.

Accuracy, reliability and timeliness

Overall accuracy

The coverage of the statistics is good because the same source registers are used by register authorities. The quality of the statistics is closely linked with the quality of the source registers. The data contained in the statistics can be considered reliable because errors and inadequacies in the registers are corrected by checking the data. 

Timeliness

The statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments are produced annually and the work on them is completed in September in the year following the statistical year. The data are final and describe the sentences issued and other criminal sanctions imposed during the preceding calendar year.

Comparability

Comparability - geographical

District courts are used as area classification in the statistics. The boundaries of judicial districts of the district courts were redrawn on 1 January 2010. On that date, the number of district courts was reduced from 51 to 27. Some of the district courts remained unchanged but for most of them, both the name and the judicial district changed. The boundaries of the new judicial districts are mostly in accordance with regional division. The new district courts are listed in the Act amending the Act on District Courts (1751/2009). The database tables on the website of the statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments contain data based on the new district court division from 2009 onwards.

Comparability - over time

Legislative changes make year-to-year offence-specific comparisons difficult. Provisions on offences contained in the Criminal Code of Finland have been updated in stages starting in 1991. Provisions on issuing a prison sentence and fines for a series of offences were changed on 1 April 1992. As a rule, under the existing legislation, a single punishment (imprisonment or fine) is issued for a series of offences. In the past, if the offences were not committed in a single act and did not involve the continuation of the same offence, a separate punishment was issued for each offence (unit sentence). If two or more fixed-term prison sentences had been issued for different offences they were combined by adding a maximum of half of the other sentences to the most severe unit sentence or, if an identical punishment of the most severe variety had been issued for two or more offences, to any of them. If two or more fines were imposed on an individual the fines were fully added up.

The practice of issuing a single prison sentence retroactively ended on 1 October 1997. Under the old legislation, if a person sentenced to unconditional imprisonment was charged with another offence that the person in question had committed before being sentenced for the first offence, the punishment had to be imposed as if all these offences had been submitted to the court for consideration as a single case. Under the new provisions, in the above-mentioned case, the earlier decision (including the punishment) would no longer be revoked. Instead, when issuing a new sentence for a new offence, the court could take the earlier unconditional prison sentence into consideration to a reasonable degree as a mitigating circumstance. Correspondingly, the court can take an earlier community service sentence into consideration when issuing the new sentence. Under the new provisions, a court may also issue a prison sentence that is shorter than the minimum provided for the offence in question. However, as in the past, the earlier sentence can also be considered a sufficient punishment for the offence to be considered later.

Revised chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Criminal Code of Finland entered into force on 1 January 2004. The reform concerned all provisions common to all offences, or the general rules of criminal law on the principles influencing the severity and type of punishment. The new provisions are largely based on existing case law.

Monitoring sentence was introduced on 1 November 2011. Under certain conditions, a person sentenced to an unconditional imprisonment of at most six months can instead receive a monitoring sentence of similar length of time. Thus, in terms of severity, the monitoring sentence is between community service and unconditional imprisonment. More detailed provisions on the monitoring sentence are contained in the Act on the Monitoring Sentence (330/2011). Repeated or serious violations of the terms of the monitoring sentence leads to the conversion of the punishment into unconditional imprisonment.

The new Act on Imposing Fines and Petty Fines (754/2010) entered into force on 1 December 2016. This act repealed the Act on Summary Penal Orders (692/1993) and the Act on Petty Fines (66/1983). Under the new procedure, a police officer, a customs official or a border guard may issue a fine of a maximum of 20 unit fines (fine order) or a forfeiture of a maximum of EUR 1,000 for a traffic offence or a petty theft. In other cases, the prosecutor is responsible for approving the punishment. The consent of the suspect is required. From 2016 onwards, the summary penal orders issued by prosecutors and the fine orders issued by the police under the new legislation are listed separately in the tables.

A new type of punishment, combination sentence was introduced on 1 January 2018. Combination sentence is a new type of sentence specifically intended for recidivists committing serious offences, which comprises unconditional imprisonment and a one-year monitoring period immediately following the imprisonment. Thus, in terms of severity, combination sentence is the second harshest punishment after life imprisonment. More detailed provisions on combination sentences are contained in the Act on the Enforcement of Combination Sentences (801/2017).

The category ‘Persons sentenced in a court’ only comprises natural persons. In 2018, one legal person was ordered to pay a penalty payment. As a result, the category of penalty payment does not sum up with the level of persons sentenced in a court in the same manner as in earlier years but differs by one case.
The principal offence for which a sentence is issued has been used as the key statistical unit since 1971.

Coherence - cross domain

The statistics on prosecutions, sentences and punishments are the only comprehensive and regularly compiled statistics on punishments for different offences, other sanctions and their total numbers in Finland.

Source data and data collections

Source data

The data are obtained from three different registers:

The decisions issued by district courts and courts of appeal are obtained from the criminal matters application (RITU). RITU was introduced on 20 May 2013 and it replaced the sentence matter system (TL) of the district courts and courts of appeal.

The new procedure for issuing fines was introduced on 1 December 2016, and after this date, summary penal orders issued by prosecutors have been obtained from the AIPA system of the Ministry of Justice, and the fine orders and petty fines issued by the police from the PATJA system of the police. The data on summary penal orders issued in 2016 have been obtained from the old registers (January to November) and from the new systems (December).
Before the new fine procedure, summary penal orders were obtained from the penal order register and petty fines from the petty fines register.

Between 1990 and summer 2017, Statistics Finland used the sentence matter system for Statistics Finland (TUTI). The TUTI application was used in the processing of summary penal orders and sentence documents. The application was withdrawn from use in summer 2017 after which the data on all summary penal orders have been obtained from the AIPA system.

Data collection

The data are obtained from registers (RITU, AIPA and PATJA). They are transferred to the transfer server of Statistics Finland.

Frequency of data collection

The data are drawn once a year.

Methods

Data compilation

Personal data from Statistics Finland’s personal data warehouse are combined with the data. New variables are calculated for the data for the compilation of tables.

Data validation

The data are compared against the data on the previous year and check runs are carried out after the data have been received.

Principles and outlines

Contact organisation

Statistics Finland

Contact organisation unit

Social Statistics

Legal acts and other agreements

The compilation of statistics is guided by the Statistics Act. The Statistics Act contains provisions on collection of data, processing of data and the obligation to provide data. Besides the Statistics Act, the Data Protection Act and the Act on the Openness of Government Activities are applied to processing of data when producing statistics. 

Statistics Finland compiles statistics in line with the EU’s regulations applicable to statistics, which steer the statistical agencies of all EU Member States.  

Further information: Statistical legislation 

 

Confidentiality - policy

The data protection of data collected for statistical purposes is guaranteed in accordance with the requirements of the Statistics Act (280/2004), the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (621/1999), the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and the Data Protection Act (1050/2018). The data materials are protected at all stages of processing with the necessary physical and technical solutions. Statistics Finland has compiled detailed directions and instructions for confidential processing of the data. Employees have access only to the data essential for their duties. The premises where unit-level data are processed are not accessible to outsiders. Members of the personnel have signed a pledge of secrecy upon entering the service. Violation of data protection is punishable. 

 

Confidentiality - data treatment

Access to statistical data is limited to persons who need them in their work. The classifications of the tables contained in the statistics are broken down.

The research data are created in cooperation with Statistics Finland’s research services.

Release policy

Statistics Finland publishes new statistical data at 8 am on weekdays in its web service. The release times of statistics are given in advance in the release calendar available in the web service. The data are public after they have been updated in the web service. 

 

Data sharing

The data sets are not shared between other statistical offices or units. This means that there are no well-established procedures or arrangements for sharing data contained in the statistics.

Accessibility and clarity

Statistical data are published as database tables in the StatFin database. The database is the primary publishing site of data, and new data are updated first there. When releasing statistical data, existing database tables can be updated with new data or completely new database tables can be published.   

In addition to statistical data published in the StatFin database, a release on the key data is usually published in the web service. If the release contains data concerning several reference periods (e.g. monthly and annual data), a review bringing together these data is published in the web service. Database tables updated at the time of publication are listed both in the release and in the review. In some cases, statistical data can also be published as mere database releases in the StatFin database. No release or review is published in connection with these database releases. 

Releases and database tables are published in three languages, in Finnish, Swedish and English. The language versions of releases may have more limited content than in Finnish.   

Information about changes in the publication schedules of releases and database tables and about corrections are given as change releases in the web service. 

 

Data revision - policy

Revisions – i.e. improvements in the accuracy of statistical data already published – are a normal feature of statistical production and result in improved quality of statistics. The principle is that statistical data are based on the best available data and information concerning the statistical phenomenon. On the other hand, the revisions are communicated as transparently as possible in advance. Advance communication ensures that the users can prepare for the data revisions.

The reason why data in statistical releases become revised is often caused by the data becoming supplemented. Then the new, revised statistical figure is based on a wider information basis and describes the phenomenon more accurately than before.

Revisions of statistical data may also be caused by the calculation method used, such as annual benchmarking or updating of weight structures. Changes of base years and used classifications may also cause revisions to data.

Quality assessment

The OSF quality criteria and the recommendation on quality description are applied in the production of the statistics.

Quality assurance

Quality management requires comprehensive guidance of activities. The quality management framework of the field of statistics is the European Statistics Code of Practice (CoP). The quality criteria of Official Statistics of Finland are also compatible with the European Statistics Code of Practice.

Further information: Quality management | Statistics Finland (stat.fi)

User access

Data are released to all users at the same time. Statistical data may only be handled at Statistics Finland and information on them may be given before release only by persons involved in the production of the statistics concerned or who need the data of the statistics concerned in their own work before the data are published. 

 

Further information: Publication principles for statistics 

 

Unless otherwise separately stated in connection with the product, data or service concerned, Statistics Finland is the producer of the data and the owner of the copyright. The terms of use for statistical data. 

 

Statistical experts

Laura Lipasti
Senior Statistician
029 551 3041

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