Seven Criminal Cases – Comparing Finnish Punishment Policies and Finns’ Punishment Preferences

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Title: Seven Criminal Cases – Comparing Finnish Punishment Policies and Finns’ Punishment Preferences
Author: Kääriäinen, Juha
Belongs to series: Research Briefs 27/2018
ISSN: 2342-7779
ISBN: 978-951-51-0652-0
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to survey Finns' conceptions of appropriate punishments in seven criminal cases and to compare these survey responses with the pre vailing punishment policies for corresponding cases. The population survey was conducted in the form of an interview and it comprised 1,251 respondents. The punish ment policies were studied in a separate survey sent to district judges, 192 of whom completed it. The same seven criminal cases were described to the respondents in both groups. The lay respondents were asked to determine a punishment that they deemed to be appropriate, whereas the judges were asked to determine a punishment according to Finnish punishment policies. The cases involved the following acts (the type of offence referred to in the court ruling in the actual case underlying the survey questions is indicated in brackets): * Violence in a public place (aggravated assault) * Sexual intercourse with a child (sexual abuse of a child) * Forced sexual intercourse with someone who was asleep (rape) * Violence in a close relationship (assault) * Trafficking and selling cocaine (aggravated narcotics offence) * Fraudulent avoidance of taxes (aggravated tax fraud) * Driving under the influence of intoxicants (driving while seriously intoxicated) As the survey was conducted using the so-called vignette method, only a limited amount of information about the cases could be provided, which posed a challenge, particularly for the professional judges. The research findings can be summarised as follows: * In terms of severity, the described cases were ranked in quite a similar order by both the laypeople and the judges. In this respect, the punishment policies and people's "sense of justice" are quite well aligned as regards these cases. * In terms of the type of punishment, the laypeople (on average) chose a harsher punishment than the professional judges in five out of the seven cases. On the other hand, in the cases involving the trafficking and selling of narcotics, and fraudulent avoidance of taxes, the judges (on average) preferred a more severe punishment than the lay respondents. * In the population survey, there was quite a lot of dispersion in the choices of type of punishment, so in this respect, the term "general sense of justice" cannot be used, as people's opinions on the appropriate punishment vary greatly. Among the judges, there was less dispersion than among the laypeople. * In terms of length of sentence, the conditional and unconditional prison sentences determined by the professional judges were longer than those chosen by the laypeople in five out of the seven cases. * The population survey respondents clearly favoured community service, which is a more severe punishment than conditional imprisonment but an alternative to unconditional imprisonment.
Date: 2018-02-14
Subject (ysa): oikeustaju

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