Friday, 4 April 2008
Mr. Lappi-Seppälä opened by giving a brief history of how Finland has dealt with offending behaviour amongst young people. Child protection legislation was introduced in the early 1900s and Finland has two models running side by side: the child welfare system and the criminal justice system. The former concerns the best interests of the child, the rights of the child, intervention, support, open care and residential care. Those who find themselves in the criminal justice system will be subject to the principle of proportionality, although in Finland there is an avoidance of custody where possible. From the 1960s onwards there has been a movement against incarceration; there was a general decarceration at all levels of the criminal justice system. In 1975 there were 761 15-17 year olds in detention compared to 65 in 2006. There were 1000 15-17 year olds in reform schools in 1965 and in 2007 there were 200.The child welfare system has been growing in popularity since the 1960s and in 1995 there was a constitutional reform on the rights of the child. The majority of child welfare interventions are family support, open care options. Mr. Lappi-Seppala acknowledged that 20% of these interventions are non-consensual. The primary objective of these care options is that they are there to educate the young people. Issues surrounding substance abuse and mental health are also addressed.He then posed the question of whether or not juvenile justice systems in different jurisdictions can be compared in terms of penal severity and deprivation of liberty. Although age would be the most reliable factor when examining court imposed sanctions, countries use different methods of filtering and diversion making effective comparisons difficult.He concluded by examining how well Finland has done in adhering to international standards and felt that the country had done well in adhering to the principle of imprisonment as a last resort, and in finding alternative methods to the criminal justice system to deal with young offenders. In addition he highlighted the publication, in 2006, of the Child Protection Law Reform to improve legal safeguards. Criticisms to Finland from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have normally focused on how the country has tackled the psychosocial problems of its young people. Mr. Lappi-Seppala outlined the increased investment and continuing improvement in this area.Summary provided by LL.M (Criminal Justice) candidate, John Cronin.