Case of daycare home Hummingbird (Kolibri) and the investigation of child sexual abuse in Finland

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Sunnuntai 18.9.2011 klo 19:22 - Johannes Remy

Representatives of the city have hastened to announce that no crimes have been committed in the daycare facility. This means that the suspicion concerns the owner’s actions somewhere else. In the information released by the authorities, it has been emphasized that the owner did not himself work in Hummingbird which was run by hired staff.

Although some criticism has been voiced of   ‘overreaction’ by the city, the decision to close Hummingbird was the right one. Really, the authorities cannot buy daycare services from a person who is suspected of this kind of crime. To be sure, the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. However, the closure of the daycare is not a punishment, but an act of necessary precaution. Nevertheless, the case evokes some questions. How is it known that no crimes have been committed in the daycare itself? It seems that the only reason is that no one has reported any crimes there. The possibility of crimes in Hummingbird does not seem to have been investigated at all. I think so because the parents were taken by surprise. This indicates that the police have not contacted them with any questions.    

I have no information about any crimes in Hummingbird and I do not claim that any crimes have taken place there. What I write now concerns more the way in which child sexual abuse in general is investigated in Finland.  Why does the fact that the suspect chose daycare as his field of business activity not evoke any questions among the authorities? How often has the suspect visited his daycare home?  

I find somewhat strange how quickly the authorities hasten to announce that no crimes have been committed in the daycare. The question has not been investigated, and nothing indicates that the police are going to investigate it. Why?  I presume that it is because the police normally do not actively struggle against these crimes by investigating and preventing them on their own initiative. They rather react passively to the suspicions which are reported to them. Since apparently no one has reported any suspicions concerning Hummingbird, it is automatically assumed that everything is in order there. In child sexual abuse, the Finnish police follow “Do not ask, do not tell” –policy.

If this incident happened in Canada, the police would have widely informed the public and asked the parents and everyone to come forward to report anything suspicious what they may have noticed. The police would especially have desired to receive reports from the suspect’s possible other victims. As is the practice in Finland, the suspect’s name has not been revealed to the public. In Canada, the police would have interviewed Hummingbird staff and parents as possible witnesses. Only after that they would have announced the good news that nothing has happened there.

One often hears in Finland that the English-speaking countries have gone too far in ‘pedophile hysteria.’ Personally, I find that the Finnish authorities are lagging several decades behind the English-speaking countries in this field.  In March 2009, three Helsinki men were sentenced in one case which involved 66 victims. Police officer Kari Tolvanen found the incident remarkable: “It has now been proved that child abusers keep contact with each other,” he told to the media.  This was in March 2009, not 1909. Since then, Tolvanen has been elected to the parliament.

Now, on September 17, Professor of Criminal and Process Law Matti Tolvanen tells to the press in the context of another case: “The expert witnesses are given great weight in trials, because only they can prove that the abuse has taken place. By usual police methods it is very difficult to gain sufficient evidence.” While it is true that child sexual abuse is an especially challenging crime to investigate, the tendency to neglect all the usual methods of criminal investigation, like house searches, cross-questioning, tailing of suspects etc.  leads to many abusers going unpunished. If the child does not tell about the crime to the child psychiatrist in an interview, the case is most often closed, no matter how clearly the child has told about it to other persons. These practices follow from administrative decisions, not from the inherent difficulty of investigation. 

Avainsanat: criminal investigations, child sexual abuse, Finland

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