National Report

Summary of Contents


Finland has a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty political system. The head of the government is the Prime Minister who heads the executive branch of the government, and the head of state, the President of Finland, is in charge of the country’s foreign policy. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers are set out in the Constitution of Finland. The Constitution is the basis of all legislation and iterates the executive power and functions of the government. It lays down the fundamental rules, values and principles of Finnish democracy.

The Prime Minister is elected by Parliament after the majority party or a coalition government comes to power subsequent to parliamentary elections. The Judiciary functions independently of the executive and legislative branches of the state. In addition to the parliamentary democracy, Finland has used referendums, such as a referendum held in 1994 to vote for joining the European Union. Under direct democracy initiatives, 50,000 citizen signatures can be submitted to the Parliament (Eduskunta/Riksdag) to introduce a new law, like the recent initiative to introduce aviation tax to reduce CO2 emissions. This was subsequent to new constitutional amendments in 2012, which introduced direct democracy initiatives where citizens can suggest law reform or the introduction of new laws.

Municipality residents (irrespective of their citizenship) also vote in municipal elections and Finnish citizens vote in EU elections.

Finland has two official languages – Finnish and Swedish – as per the Constitution. The realisation of linguistic rights is a fundamental right under Article 17 of the Constitution in Finland. By law, an individual has the right to receive service and public documents in Finnish or Swedish. This means that both citizens and non-citizens have the right to use Finnish or Swedish with public authorities. The Finnish Constitution also protects the linguistic rights of Sámi and Roma and recognizes them as minority languages. Under the Constitution, they have the right to maintain and protect their language and culture.[1] According to the available data, the number of persons with Finnish as a mother tongue are 4 835 778 (= n. 88%), persons with Swedish as a mother tongue are 288 400 (= n. 5%) and number of persons with Sámi as mother tongue are 1 995 (= n. 0,04%).

Other than Swedish and Finnish, the main other languages spoken in Finland are Russian, Estonian, Somali, English and Arabic. As for other minority languages spoken in Finland, Estonian, Arabic, Somali, English, Kurdish, Persian, Albanian, Vietnamese are spoken by 391 746 people (= n. 7%).

Chart 01. Biggest number of foreign-language speakers 2018.

Finland has a welfare system that provides its citizens with social insurance, social welfare, health care and employment protections of good working conditions. The Government and the municipality supervise the welfare and social schemes. As far as income security is concerned, Finland provides a national pension plan, employment pension, and sickness pension, unemployment insurance, disability insurance and workers’ compensation. Over and above that, Finland provides aid to families with children, childcare services and services for the disabled.

As of 2018, the Finnish population is 5.5 million. According to 2017 data, the average life expectancy at birth for boys was 78.7 years and 84.2 years for girls. The average expected year of schooling is 17.6 years and mean years of schooling is 12.4 years.

As per the UNDP Human Development Report on Finland, the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI) value is 0.925. This value positions the country at 12 out of 189 countries and territories studied.[2] The report further states that “between 1990 and 2018, Finland’s HDI value increased from 0.784 to 0.925, an increase of 18.0 percent.” This rise takes into account that life expectancy at birth increased by 6.5 years, mean years of schooling increased by 5.0 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.3 years.

The IHDI (Inequality-adjusted Development Index) value for the country was 0.876 in 2018.

  • Overall loss (%): 5.6
  • Human inequality coefficient (%): 5.5
  • Inequality in life expectancy at birth (%): 2.8
  • Inequality in education (%): 1.9
  • Inequality in income (%): 11.7

As per Statistics Finland’s 2016 income distribution data, the number of persons belonging to households at risk of poverty stood at 637,000.

Chart 02. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the last ten years.

Year GDP millions € GDP millions USD
2018 233 555 274 210
2017 223 892 252 867
2016 216 073 239 106
2015 209 952 232 968
2014 205 474 273 043
2013 203 338 270 061
2012 199 793 256 854
2011 196 869 273 985
2010 187 100 248 244
2009 181 029 252 222
2008 193 711 284 870

Chart 03. Finland’s GDP in millions in euro and USD


The gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita GNI (PPP) was 252 billion PPP US dollars in 2017.


3.1. Criminal Procedure

The criminal procedure has four stages: pre-trial investigation, consideration of charges, court hearing and enforcement of penalties.

Chart 05. Criminal Procedure Stages

A criminal investigation starts with a police report that may be made by the concerned party, or if the police suspects a crime has been committed, the police or authorities responsible for criminal investigation will conduct a criminal investigation. The criminal investigation is led by the police and the prosecutor. Upon completion of the criminal investigation, the criminal investigation report and supporting documents are submitted to the prosecutor. This is called the pre-trial investigation.

After the pre-trial investigation is completed and a prosecutor receives a record of the pre-trial investigation from the police, the prosecutor decides the further course of action that could result in either taking the matter to court, bringing charges or taking the decision to waive charges issued. In the case of petty crimes, charges may not be pressed. Nonetheless, in cases where the victim wants to bring charges, she or he can do so. This stage is called the consideration of charges.

Once the charges are brought to court, the defendant is notified of the charges brought against him, a summons is delivered and the defendant is provided with an opportunity to respond to it. In most cases, the summons also instructs the defendant to appear in court in person but it may also request that the defendant responds to the charges in writing before the trial commences.

The hearing starts with the framing of charges brought against the defendant by the prosecutor and the setting out of the victim’s claims in the matter. If the plaintiff so wishes, he can make a personal claim for compensation. It is then the defendant’s turn to be heard, and he can either admit or deny charges and must respond to any claim for compensation and present his views. Subsequent to the framing of charges and the response, evidence will be presented in writing and witnesses will be heard and examined.

After that, closing arguments of both parties will be heard and the court will make a ruling at the hearing. If the defendant, the prosecutor or the plaintiff is dissatisfied with the District Court’s decision, he or she can appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The appeal must be submitted within 30 days. However, a notice of intent to appeal must be filed first within seven days, with the District Court that made the decision.

Chart 06. Criminal Procedure Stages

In cases where, during the preliminary investigation, a request for detention of the accused is made, a court of law has to make the decision on detainment during the pre-trial period. A request for detention is considered specifically in cases where it is suspected that the accused may flee, avoid the trial, hinder the criminal procedure and disrupt the investigation, damage evidence, and/or influence witnesses or the plaintiff, or continue with the criminal activity.

Equally a person can be detained if he or she is not a permanent resident of Finland or refuses to provide his or her name and refuses to state his name or address or gives false information concerning his identity, and if the identity is unknown and there is a reasonable suspicion that he/she may attempt to avoid the preliminary investigation or leave the country. In the above circumstances, a suspect can be detained without probable cause and if it is deemed important to detain the suspect for further investigation. Over and above the aforementioned conditions, the crime punishment must be no less than two years of imprisonment.

The criminal prosecution proceedings are provided in the chart below:

Chart 07. Criminal Prosecution Proceedings

3.2. Civil Procedure

Chart 08. Civil Procedure Stages

The Code of Judicial Procedure is the main statute that governs civil proceedings. The civil procedure can be divided into two distinct stages: the preparatory stage and the main hearing. In the preparatory stage, parties submit a number of documents along with filing of the case.

Chart 09. Preparatory stage

Subsequent to the preparatory stage, arguments are heard, written evidence is presented in court and witnesses are cross-examined. The hearing can take from one to several days. There can be an application for summary procedure if the matter is uncontested, but, if the defendant contests, the same proceedings are held as per the above procedure.

The limitation period for initiating proceedings in civil cases is three years. In certain cases, the limitation period may be interrupted by notice.

3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution

An out-of-court settlement is not compulsory in Finland, but it is possible in the majority of cases, such as business disputes, disputes between employers and employees, disputes between consumers and businesses, and disputes relating to landlords and tenants. Mediation is provided in civil and criminal matters in Finland. For sake of clarity, mediation in criminal cases will be referred to as Victim-offender Mediation (VOM).

Under Chapter 5 Section 26 of the Code of Procedure, it is stated that in civil cases, courts must establish whether the matter can be resolved amicably. In civil cases, mediation can be initiated when at least one of the parties involved is a natural person, and the disputed amount is minor.

Mediation should not be applied in cases of sexual offenses or cases of intimate partner violence with a prior history of violence or mediation. The police have also been instructed to prioritise complainants’ interests and apply careful consideration when assessing the suitability of more sensitive cases for mediation. In practice, mediation is more commonly suggested to younger age groups, and less directed to criminal cases where parties involved have a prominent criminal history. Currently, the most topical issue regarding victim offender mediation (VOM) regards the application of mediation to cases of intimate partner violence. The current discussion regards whether the regulations for this need to be further developed.

Victim-offender mediation (VOM) in Finland is available for parties involved in and affected by crime and is a commonly used method of alternative conflict resolution. Essential to the practice of VOM is the theory of restorative justice, which lays the groundwork for its implementation. Initiated during the 1980s, the scheme allows the victim to be heard, the offender to make amends and their social relations to the community be maintained. In criminal matters, VOM is provided in municipalities and in cases of mediation the victim meets the accused or person suspected of the crime through a mediator. A settlement agreement for compensation may also be agreed upon. Mediation is not compulsory but voluntary and it may be suggested by the parties, the police, the prosecutor, or the social welfare services.

Currently, the Finnish institute of health and welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos/ institutet för hälsa och välfärd) serves as the provider of VOM services, while the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Sosiaali- ja terveysalan lupa- ja valvontavirasto / Tillstånds- och tillsynsverket för social- och hälsovården) supervises its implementation. The process and outcome of VOM operates through three laws; firstly, the legislation covering VOM as well as certain dispute cases which is the Act on Mediation in Criminal and Certain Civil Cases. The impact of VOM on the judicial outcomes of the criminal justice system rely on the Pre-Investigation Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

Mediation in civil and criminal cases can be initiated by the parties themselves or be suggested by officials such as social workers, prosecutors and the police. Mediation can only be suggested to parties who personally and voluntarily consent to participation and understand its purpose. Additionally, the aims and means of mediation need to be deemed appropriate for the case and the party’s interests when assessing its suitability.

Chart 10. Mediation in Criminal and Civil Cases

VOM can be initiated only when parties involved personally consent to participate and understand the function of mediation.

According to the Act on Mediation in Criminal and Certain Civil Cases (section 3), VOM requires that the person accused of a crime confirms the general, factual occurrences of the event and that mediation is in the interest of the victim.

In a legal sense, the wording is weaker compared to “admitting” to a crime, since confessing to having committed a crime could he used as evidence in court, while confirming the general occurrence of events cannot be used as evidence of admitting the crime.

Despite the restrictions, VOM is an option available in criminal cases regardless of ongoing court proceedings. In other words, VOM can be attempted in instances where a criminal investigation has concluded or even in cases where a verdict has been delivered by court. If a mediated criminal case proceeds to court hearings, the parties involved cannot refer to information disclosed during the mediation without consent of all the parties involved.

Thus, VOM can (if consent to disclosure has been given) influence the judicial verdict of the police, prosecutor and court. A successful mediation or a mediation attempt can serve as a ground for concluding the criminal case before it reaches court hearings. Regarding the influence of mediation, all authorities base their decisions on the aforementioned laws and official instructions.

3.3.1. Stages of VOM

Subsequent to filing of a criminal complaint and if there is a viable reason to suspect that a crime has occurred, the police must deliver a pre-trial investigation and inform the parties involved of any support service that may be of use to them. Offences where the prosecution rests on the injured party or complainant offenses, can only proceed to prosecution if the injured party demands punishment. Cases subject to public prosecution can be subject to investigation and prosecution even if the injured party does not demand punishment. A mediated criminal case can influence the verdict of the police in several ways, for instance, the pre-trial investigation is discontinued if the injured party revokes their demand for punishment following a successful mediation.

The impact of VOM on the criminal procedures and outcomes are presented in the chart below:

Chart 11. The crime process of victim-offender mediation

The oval boxes indicate the impacts of mediation on the criminal procedures and judicial outcomes.

Source: Aino Jauhiainen.

The prosecutor can only consider prosecution of complainant offenses if the injured party demands punishment. Regarding non-complainant offenses, the prosecutor has the right to raise charges regardless of the injured party’s demands for punishment. A successful mediation can serve as a ground for non-prosecution. A mediation agreement or attempt at mediation, as well as other actions taken by the suspect to amend the consequences of their crime can justify non-prosecution on grounds of reasonability.

If a criminal case sent to mediation proceeds to court, a mediated case can affect the outcome of the penalty. The court may decide to waive penal measures, on grounds of insignificance, young age and reasonability. Furthermore, a successful mediation serves as a ground for mitigation of the penalty.

The verdicts and grounds for non-prosecution are further outlined in the following model:

Chart 12. Impact of Mediation

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method to litigation in state courts. Any dispute in a civil or commercial matter which can be settled by agreement between the parties may be referred for final decision to be made by one or more arbitrators.
The Arbitration Institute of Finland offers Arbitration, and also mediation regarding civil or commercial disputes, seemingly tending to move from mediation, and then arbitration if it does not work out.[1]

3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes

In civil cases that are undisputed, specifically cases concerning unpaid rents, consumer credit, and phone and electricity bills, a district court can apply a summary procedure. Mediation and processes relating to mediation especially in civil cases follow a simplified procedure and significantly reduce legal costs. This includes criminal cases where mediation is permitted, thus influencing the verdict and the nature of penalty imposed by the court.

[1] For more see,


The Finnish Constitution guarantees the right to be heard by a competent authority without undue delay, the right to appeal, and the right to have a case dealt with appropriately. The right to a fair trial is enshrined in the Constitution.

Art. 21:

Protection under the law

Everyone has the right to have his or her case dealt with appropriately and without undue delay by a legally competent court of law or other authority, as well as to have a decision pertaining to his or her rights or obligations reviewed by a court of law or other independent organ for the administration of justice.

In Finland, the judiciary is independent from the legislative and executive branches. Judges are bound to act independently without any outside interference or interference from the executive branch. Further, the decisions of the Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court cannot be reviewed by any other authority. As set out in law, a judge cannot be dismissed except by a court order.

The Institute of Criminology & Legal Policy (ICLP) has conducted a study on perception of the law in Finland, titled “The legal situation in Finland. The study revealed that confidence in the judicial system was lower among those who had dealt with courts than those who had no personal experience dealing with the judiciary or courts. Furthermore, court procedures were considered bureaucratic and general knowledge of legal expenses or of their rights in court was lacking among the participants.

In 2019 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) criticised the handling of a case where an asylum seeker was denied asylum and sent back to Iraq and was killed after his return. The court held that Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated. The court criticised the Finnish Immigration Services’ decision and assessment of the case. The asylum seeker was sent back to Iraq despite the case being still pending before the Supreme Administrative Court.


6.1. Overview of judicial costs for litigants

In Finland, litigants in general are required to pay a court tax or fee to start proceedings at a court of general jurisdiction. For instance, the district court fee is € 260 in criminal matters, appeals under the enforcement code, restraining orders, and matters in which settlements are not allowed. A fee is also applicable in the Courts of Appeal.

In case of a criminal matter where a public prosecutor is appointed or if a restraining order is imposed by a District Court, no fee is payable. In civil matters and land court matters, the district court fee is € 510. The fee for a Petitionary matter is € 260. In criminal matters, the fee is not payable in the event the Court of Appeal rules in favour of the appellant. For other matters in the Courts of Appeal, the fee is € 510. In the Supreme Court, the court fee is € 510. In criminal matters, no fee is payable if a decision of a lower court is amended in favor of the appellant.

In the Administrative Court, the court fee is € 260. The fee is not payable in case the Administrative Court amends the subject to appeal in favour of the appellant. That is, the applicant is reimbursed if the applicant lost the case at first instance but won the appeal. In the Supreme Administrative Court, the court fee is € 510, and as in the lower courts, no fee is payable if the decision subject of appeal is amended in favour of the appellant.

Over and above the court fees, there are additionally a copy charge, extract charge and certificate charge for requested documents. Other separately compensated costs are publication costs in the Official Gazette and other publications, unless publication costs are included in the basic charge, which is the case in some petitionary matters. Additionally, a tape or record fee as well as delivery charge is collected for audio or video recordings or other records. Full charges will also be collected for specific services abroad.

As far as calculation of court costs are concerned, the court fees for instance includes trial charges and petition charges. They also include the costs of delivery of the official instrument containing the decision on the case in question and other incidental charges relating to processing of the case. A court fee is also charged when a claim, petition, or appeal is withdrawn.

The responsible party for the costs is the initiator of the matter (plaintiff or petitioner), and in cases of appeal, the appellant. The charges collected by the courts are governed by The Act on Court Fees (“Tuomiostuinmaksulaki”, 1455/2015) and the corresponding Decrees.

6.2. Exemption from judicial costs

In Finland, there is no specialised procedure for exemption from legal costs as such, but economically vulnerable people may receive free legal representation as part of legal aid (see section 5 above), which covers all sorts of matters. A beneficiary of legal aid is also exempted from payment liability of court fees listed above in section 6.1.

The procedure for applying for exemption from judicial costs is stated above. Yet, in the event litigants lose the case, they are liable to pay the litigation costs and expenses of the other side. The state does not compensate the opposing party for any legal costs in the event that a recipient of legal aid loses the case.

Under the Code of Judicial Procedure (“Oikeudenkäymiskaari”, 4/1734), the court has power on its own motion to reduce the payment liability of the party or excuse them altogether. If, in the view of the court, it would be manifestly unreasonable to render one party liable for the legal costs of the other party, taking into account the situation of the parties, or the significance of the issue at hand, and all aspects of the case, the court may reduce the payment liability.

In Finland, the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy / Kriminologian ja oikeuspolitiikan instituutti” (ICLP) has conducted research on the judicial costs in the civil matters over the past twenty years. The research has shown that the judicial costs have risen steadily from the mid-1990’s to date, but the effect of risen costs on access to justice/courts has not been researched as such.[1]

6.3. Mechanisms to reduce costs by variations to courts and procedures

In Finland, there are neither simplified procedures within the regular courts nor courts of special jurisdiction that specifically aim at reducing costs for litigants. However, in the Insurance Court (“Vakuutusoikeus”), a special court that deals with income security matters, proceedings are free of charge for private individuals. The Insurance Court has jurisdiction in matters concerning for example pension matters, unemployment benefit, housing allowance, financial aid for students and disability benefits paid by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. The applicant however is responsible for possible costs of representation by an attorney, but may be granted legal aid to cover the costs.

Despite the absence of simple procedures with the aim to reduce costs, undisputed civil cases that go to district courts and are resolved in a summary procedure have a lower court fee, approximately ranging from € 65 to € 86 compared to the standard fee of € 510.

In addition to the formal dispute mechanisms, there are various Ombudsman Offices where a complaint can be filed.

  • Ombudsman for Equality (Tasa-arvovaltuutettu)

The Ombudsman for Equality is an independent authority whose main duty is to supervise compliance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men. The Ombudsman’s role is to combat discrimination and promote equality.

  • National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal of Finland (Yhdenvertaisuuslautakunta)

The task of the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal of Finland is to give legal protection to people who consider they have been discriminated against or victimised. There is no fee for petitions and no service fees. The mandate of the Tribunal does not cover matters related to family life, private life or practice of religion. The Tribunal may prohibit discrimination by imposing a conditional fine.

  • The Consumer Disputes Board (Kuluttajariitalautakunta)

The Consumer Disputes Board is an impartial and independent expert body whose central values are justice and easy access to justice. The Board makes recommendations that cannot be enforced coercively, however businesses comply with the Board’s decisions in over 80% of cases. Cases are handled free of charge and activities are funded through the state budget. The processing times at the Consumer Disputes Board are around as long as at the regular courts, which could be critiqued as the Board is supposed to be a simpler mechanism to solve consumer disputes. In 2018, the average processing time for a claim at the Board was 11 months (median 8 to 7 months), and for civil matters in district courts 9 to 8 months.


Finland has both collective and diffuse rights.

As far as collective rights are concerned, Finland has collective agreements that are between trade unions and employers’ federation whereby terms and conditions of a group of employees or a sector are decided. The collective agreement sets out the basic rights, working conditions, employment standards, and pay (the minimum rates of pay and various bonuses).

Most collective agreements in Finland are generally binding for the sector or industry in question. This means that an employer is obligated as per law to respect the minimum employment standards that are guaranteed under the collective agreement, even when the employer does not belong to the organisation that concluded the agreement and the employee is not a union member. Finland has around 160 universally binding collective agreements. Over and above that, the central labour market organisations may decide on day-to-day work matters and their compliance with collective agreements.

As far as collective rights are concerned, the indigenous Sámi population is a legally recognised indigenous population in the EU and in Finland. The Sámi live mainly (but not only) in an area covering the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola peninsula. According to the Sámi Parliament, Sámediggi, there were 10,463 Sámi living in Finland in 2015. The Sámi homeland includes the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki and areas in Sodankylä. The area amounts to 35,000 km².

In Finland, the Sámi have a special status under the Finnish Constitution, and they have the constitutional right to self-govern in the areas of language, culture and traditions in the Sámi homeland. The UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People and the ILO convention no. 169 stress the importance of institutions that represent indigenous peoples and whose participation and rights must be guaranteed. For tasks relating to cultural autonomy, the Sámi can elect from among themselves a Sámi Parliament.

The Finnish Mining Act takes into consideration the full realisation of the social, economic and cultural rights of the Sámi people, as established in Article 2 of ILO Convention. The Act also seeks to control and restrict the impact of mining activities in the Sámi territories, and ensure that Sámi rights are not exploited or compromised. The Act provides for a right of appeal. The Act extends protection to the Skolt Sámi.

For instance, in Ilmari Länsman et al. v. Finland, the petitioners filed a case before the UN Human Rights Committee claiming that Finland had violated Article 27 of the ICCPR.[1] In the petition they claimed that the decision by the Central Forestry Board to sign a contract with a private company permitting quarrying in a Sámi area, near mount Etelä-Riutusvaara, which is a sacred place for the Sámi, was violative of Art. 27 of the ICCPR. The Committee concluded that in this case there was no violation of Art. 27 of the ICCPR.

In Jouni E. Länsman et al. v. Finland, the petitioners claimed that the approval granted by the Finnish Central Forestry Board to construct roads in an area suitable for winter herding was in violation of Article 27 of the ICCPR and the United Nations Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. The Committee ruled that there was no breach of Art. 27 of the ICCPR.

More recently, in a case decided by the Supreme Administrative Court, the Sámi Parliament under Section 165 of the Finnish Mining Act, 2011, challenged the permit granted to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (TUKES) to start mining activities in the Valley of the Kings, in Inari, a Sámi territory. The court ruled in favour of the Sámi Parliament. Subsequently, TUKES appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland, but the case was dismissed in favour of the Sámi Parliament.[2]

Despite the rights guaranteed in the Finnish Constitution, there are challenges in realising the rights of Sámi.[3] This has been researched extensively in Finland.[4] More recently, there have been discussions on disputes between the Sámi and the Finnish government‘s plans to build railways across reindeer rearing areas.[5]

As far as diffuse rights are concerned, the Everyman’s Right (Jokamiehen Oikeudet) is a diffuse right that gives every person in Finland the right to explore, forage, fish with a line rod, and enjoy nature across the country. The Everyman’s Rights protects a person’s right to enjoy nature without transgressing private property and violating environmental protection laws.

In Finland, a class action suit can be filed in disputes concerning a defect in consumer goods or if there has been a contradictory interpretation of a contract. Likewise, in case of a dispute between a consumer and a business owing to a product, sale and marketing of investment products and insurances, a class action suit can be filed.

A case is heard as a class action, if several persons have similar claims against the same defendant. Currently, the Consumer Ombudsman, would bring a class action against the defender. In case of class action cases, applicants are not liable for legal costs. It is the Consumer Ombudsman, or by the defendant that would pay the legal costs.

The Helsinki District Court hears all class action cases.


According to data from Statistics Finland, 80 per cent of Finns aged 16 to 89 use the internet. The use of the internet is calculated on a daily basis, and as per the data 68 per cent use it several times a day. For instance, this includes the use of the internet using tablets outside the home and workplace. In 2015, before the Parliamentary elections, it was observed that 45 per cent of Finns used a voting aid application. Similarly, the use of smartphones among Finns stands at 69 per cent. The shift to smartphones has also led to multiple internet connections within the same household. This includes use of online banking (80%) and the use of voting aid applications among persons aged 25 to 34 to search for a suitable candidate.

The use of services for booking appointments at the local health station, checking for vaccinations and checking health records (Omakanta) are available on the internet and via a telephone service. More recently, videos are used by nurses to check on elderly patients living in remote parts of the country.[1] Also, there is an increased focus on digitalisation and the use of care-robots to meet the growing demands of care and the scarcity of nurses.[2]  Social and healthcare personal data is recorded and saved in Kanta services. The data is available for personal use, but also shared with professionals in Finland and within Europe if individual consent is given. The personal data may also be used for monitoring and research and compiling statistical information for secondary purposes after anonymisation. The data typically consists of all medical treatment received, vaccinations, prescriptions, and other data related to personal well-bring.

Over and above that, as far as legal aid is concerned, the application procedure, processing times and all details regarding the application for legal aid are available online. Online and telephone advice are available in three languages: Finnish, Swedish and English. The purpose is to ensure that access to legal aid is available in far flung places in Finland, especially Eastern Finland where applicants may find it difficult to reach Legal Aid Offices physically.

As part of the Government’s attempt to increase efficiency and use of electronic services, it is mandatory to use electronic services for submitting an application for a summons in an undisputed civil case, especially in cases where summary procedure is applicable. The application for a summons must be submitted to a district court through either the e-service or the data transmission interface (Santra) of the judicial administration. The e-service can be used by companies and corporations, debt collection agencies and municipalities.


Finland works towards successful implementation of the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda. Finnish foreign and security policy recently has focused on the following themes: dealing with climate change; inequality; cyber-crime; pursuing a human rights-based foreign and security policy, promoting gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights, improving the rights of vulnerable persons and minorities, and improving peace and security. Development policy is directed towards increasing access to justice and improving minority rights as part of Finland’s foreign and security policy, and is in alignment with achieving its 2030 SDGs agenda.

The Foreign Service of Finland has a Human Rights Action Plan with the aim of increasing women’s human rights cooperation between NGOs and member states. Further, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports human rights’ work in countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.

Finland is also part of the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. The goal is to support human rights defenders in third countries. Finland also closely cooperates with other Nordic countries in the implementation of international human rights instruments. Previously, Finland has funded projects that support and evaluate access to justice in Africa for minority and marginalised groups, such as groups affected by HIV/AIDs.

More recently, Finland has been involved in efforts relating to transparency, cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, and building guidelines for algorithmic governance and the use of AI, from robotics to drones, in North Africa, from the perspective of human rights.

Further, organisations like the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, with the United Nations (HEUNI), studies human trafficking in Finland and provides policy-based interventions and crime prevention practices.


In Finland, the legal aid eligibility criteria are fairly broad. Legal aid does not evaluate the chances of success. Thus, legal aid is also available in cases where the applicant is not likely to win a case, or they do not have the necessary evidence or documents strengthening their claim. However, if an applicant loses the case he/she is responsible for paying the legal costs of the other side; legal aid in Finland does not cover or protect against inter-parties’ legal costs if the applicant loses the case. The risk of having to pay the other side’s costs acts as a deterrent to clients wanting to pursue cases with low chances of success. The requirement of paying legal costs of the other party has been held by United Nations Human Rights Committee to be violative of fair trial rights as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). An amendment to the Code of Judicial Procedure does allow the judge to reduce the payment liability, if it would be manifestly be unreasonable to make the order for payment.

One of the main challenges for the legal aid scheme in Finland is physical access to PLAO owing to scarce population areas. [1] It is difficult for applicants or those with legal problems to physically reach the PLAO for legal advice. As has been noted above, private lawyers can act and are covered under the Finnish legal aid scheme only if the case is likely to proceed to court. Online services have been developed to overcome these problems.

In cases where the other party in a case has already consulted the nearest PLAO, under the rule on conflict of interests the PLAO cannot take the case. The PLA officer may refer the applicant to a private lawyer in that case. The PLAO however plans to start video conferencing and other technological solutions, in order to ensure faster access and reach for clients in far-flung places.

Although the legal aid system in principle functions efficiently, expert assessments found that there were deficits especially among the elderly and customers of social and health care, mainly due to legal and official texts being hard to comprehend. Also, knowledge about legal aid should be better communicated to citizens; according to a survey by the EU commission, only about 40 per cent of Finns were aware of the possibility of state provided legal aid, however, it may be that the survey participants had not sought legal aid.

Legal aid expenditure in Finland increased between 2014 and 2016 from € 65.3 million to € 89.4 million. The 37% increase in expenditure is attributed to an increase in immigration legal assistance from asylum-seekers. Thus, in order to limit the expense, the right to legal aid for the initial asylum interview has been removed.

Although Finnish legal aid is considered very generous, it is not known how residents learn about legal aid, if they are aware of their rights and the kind of legal aid that is available, and what hindrances are faced by those who lack linguistic skills or education in accessing legal aid in Finland. Further, in cases relating to certain vulnerable populations, such as persons with disabilities, memory loss diseases or long-term illnesses, or persons in mental health care,[2] accessing legal aid is a challenge. Depending on certain situations, and for some groups in particular, there is a heightened need for assistance in understanding their legal rights in order to realise their rights.[3]

For instance, in cases of intimate partner violence, women may require counselling or assistance to acquire knowledge on rights and remedies available to them. For example, organisations like Naisten linja – a women’s helpline for victims of intimate partner violence – provide such assistance. Monika naiset, an NGO, provides assistance to women from immigrant backgrounds, Victim Support provides assistance for victims of crime and Takuu säätiö assists persons with debt problems. [4] There are similar groups or organisations that provide assistance to affected or vulnerable groups, ranging from allergy and asthma associations and workers’ unions that provide legal assistance for their members, to those dealing with debt problems.

Yet, as far as research on legal assistance to vulnerable groups is concerned there is very little evidence on what are the factors that affects certain groups in accessing justice.[5] There needs to be more research on access to justice and use and satisfaction of legal aid among the vulnerable population, this includes the immigrant population who have limited knowledge of their rights.

Research further suggests that people do not always perceive problems as ‘legal’ even if there may be a legal dimension to them, and the best solution may not lie in the justice system. There is need to lend attention to “everyday” problems. Finland and the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (ICLP) is currently planning a nationally representative legal needs study about problems and disputes in everyday life. The study will be carried out in 2020 and will inquire about consumer problems, family, housing problems, work problems, money problems, debt problems, problems concerning public service and public benefits and crime victimisation. The study aims to understand the duration of a problem, efforts to resolve the problem, the use of advice and representation, costs of resolving the problem and how it impacts on everyday life and legal capability. The frame is adopted from international recommendations for such studies (OECD/Open Society Foundations 2019), but it takes into consideration the problems central to a Nordic welfare state.[6]  

More so, most of the legal needs studies or customer satisfaction surveys have focused on the Finnish population, thus discounting permanent residents or residents of other nationalities that may have a legitimate right to use the services.

To summarise, to improve access to justice Finland needs to:

  • Research the use of legal and satisfaction among customers
  • Re-consider the legal costs reimbursement in case party loses the case, since this impacts access to justice and deters individuals to pursue their case
  • Dissemination of right to legal aid among vulnerable and immigrant population
  • More availability of online legal aid advice and improving digital access to legal aid.


[1]‘Linguistic Rights’ (Oikeusministeriö) <> accessed 4 February 2020.


[3] A referendary is responsible for preparing the case for the court and presenting it in the hearing, contacting parties, carrying out administrative work related to the case, and sending court documents to concerned parties.

[4] For more see,

[5] For a detailed analysis of the Finnish legal aid system refer to: Anna Barlow (2019), The Machinery of Legal Aid. Åbo Akademi University. Available at:

[6] For more see,

[7] For more see, Karoliina Majamaa and others, ‘Kohti laadukkaita oikeusapupalveluita’ 224. Available :

[8] For more see, ibid.

[9] As per Section 16 of the Legal Aid Act, legal aid can be withdrawn: “If the prerequisites for granting legal aid have not existed, or if the circumstances have changed or ceased to exist, the legal aid office may amend the legal aid decision or decide that legal aid is to cease. The applicant may submit a question concerning the amendment of a legal aid decision and cessation of legal aid to be decided by a court, as provided in section 24.”

[10] Laura Sarasoja and Chris Carling: Riidat käräjäoikeuksissa – riita-asiat ja niiden oikeudenkäyntikulut. Working paper (forthcoming, 2019).

[11] Article 27 ICCPR states: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”

[12] For a detailed analysis of Sámi rights and cases, kindly refer to: Giuseppe Amatulli, Markku Suksi and Dr Mariya Riekkinen, ‘The Legal Position of the Sami in the Exploitation of Mineral Resources in Finland, Norway and Sweden’ 93. Available:

[13] Valtioneuvoston kanslia (2017). Saamelaisten oikeuksien toteutuminen: kansainvälinen oikeusvertaileva tutkimus. Valtioneuvoston selvitys- ja tutkimustoiminnan julkaisusarja 4/2017. Valtiontalouden tarkastusvirasto (2014) Julkinen oikeusapu. Tuloksellisuustarkastuskertomus 5/2014.

[14] Martin Scheinin and Taina Dahlgren (eds), Toteutuvatko saamelaisten ihmisoikeudet (Yliopistopaino 2001).

[15] For more see, ‘The Battle to Save Lapland: “First, They Took the Religion. Now They Want to Build a Railroad” | World News | The Guardian’ <> accessed 4 February 2020. Available Online:

[16] The affirmation typically states: “I [name] do promise and affirm on my honour and my conscience that I shall act in my office in accordance with the Constitution and the law. I shall administer justice in a lawful and impartial manner to the best of my understanding, and I shall respect the equality of all persons before the law. (Courts Act 1:7).”

[17] For more on legislative drafting see, ‘Effective Legislative Drafting: Legislative Drafting Process Guide’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.

[18] videovisit, ‘City of Helsinki’s Service Centre Utilizes VideoVisit® Virtual Care – up to 85% More Cost Efficient than Physical Home Care – VideoVisit® – Modernize the Way You Do Business’ (VideoVisit® – modernize the way you do business, 23 February 2017) <>.

[19] For more see, ‘EVA: Robots Could Do a Fifth of Nurses’ Work | Yle Uutiset | Yle.Fi’ <>.

[20] ‘Flash Eurobarometer 385: Justice in the EU – Ecodp.Common.Ckan.Site_title’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.

[21] ‘Social and Healthcare Reforms and Vulnerable Groups — University of Helsinki’ <>.

Eeva Nykänen, Laura Kalliomaa-Puha and Yrjö Mattila, Sosiaaliset oikeudet – näkökulmia perustaan ja toteutumiseen (THL 2017) <> accessed 4 February 2020.

Pajukoski, Marja, Pääseekö asiakas oikeuksiinsa? Sosiaali- ja terveydenhuollon ulkopuoliset tekijät -työryhmä, Raportti III (THL 2010).

[22] Genn, H. G. (1999). Paths to justice. What people do and think about going to law. Oxford: Hart. Pleasence, P., Balmer, N. J., & Sandefur, R. L. (2016). Also see, ‘Apples and Oranges: An International Comparison of the Public’s Experience of Justiciable Problems and the Methodological Issues Affecting Comparative Study – Pleasence – 2016 – Journal of Empirical Legal Studies – Wiley Online Library’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.

[23] Kaijus Tuomas Ervasti, ‘Court – Connected Mediation in Finland.’ [2014] The Future of Civil Litigation – Access to Courts and Court – Annexed Mediation in the Nordic Countries 120.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Suomen Lakimiesliitto ry. (2019). Oikeusturvavakuutuksen tunnettuus. Taloustutkimus. Retrieved from 11.1.2020

[26] Majamaa and others (n 5).

[27] Jaakkola, R. (1993). Kansalaisten kokemat oikeusongelmat ja niistä selviäminen. haastattelututkimuksen tuloksia.&nbsp;. Helsinki: Oikeuspoliittinen tutkimuslaitos.

[28] Litmala, M. (2000). Kansalaisarvioita oikeusongelmista ja oikeudellisista oloista. Helsinki: Oikeuspoliittinen tutkimuslaitos.

[29] Ibid.

[30] ‘Global Insights on Access to Justice 2019 | World Justice Project’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.

[31] The agency prepares the national core curricula. The following introduction on public legal education is from the most recent curricula (2014).

[32] ‘Raportti’ (Selvitys- ja tutkimustoiminta) <> accessed 4 February 2020. 2


[34] Rissanen, Antti, Rantala, Kati. Oikeusapuj’rjestelmä ja Oikeudensaanimahdollisuudet. Oikeus 2014 (43); 4: 397–413

[35] Karoliina Majamaa and others, ‘Kohti laadukkaita oikeusapupalveluita’ (28 October 2019) <> accessed 4 February 2020. Also see, Anu Liimatainen and others, Kyselytutkimus vankeusvangeille sääntelyn toimivuudesta ja vankilaoloista (Kriminologian ja oikeuspolitiikan instituutti 2015) <> accessed 4 February 2020..

[36] Pajukoski, 2010.

[37] ‘Debt Judgments as a Reflection of Consumption-Related Debt Problems’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.

[38] Poikonen, Heidi (2017). Perusoikeussääntelyn vaikutuksista oikeuteen saada päihdepalveluja. In Nykänen, Eeva, Kalliomaa-Puha, Laura, Mattila, Yrjö, Arajärvi, Pentti (eds.) (2017) Sosiaaliset oikeudet: näkökulmia perustaan ja toteutumiseen. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos 2017

[39] ‘Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice’ <> accessed 4 February 2020.