The Finnish Criminal Court System

(Reposted from old blog)

Inspired by Matthew Palmer’s writings (1, 2) on his experiences about the Australian judicial system, I decided to write a series of essays on the Finnish legal system, mostly to contrast it with the universally familiar United State system (even if that universal familiarity is a little skewed by generally having been obtained from dramatizations and not actual court practice). I will concentrate on criminal cases.

I will write based on my personal experience as a part of the judicial system, and I will be supplementing the experience with my personal research into law. I am not legally trained, but I have read a fair bit of law and related literature.

I am a lay judge in the Jyväskylä District court. I will explain the significance of that later, but I hope it suffices to say, here, that I have sat on the bench, as part of four-judge panels, since March this year, in ten sessions each a day long, and each containing at least two, usually four or five criminal cases.

Some highlights:

  • There are no plea bargains. With some minor exceptions, every criminal case is tried in a full court session.
  • There is no jury. Criminal cases are tried as a rule by a panel of four judges, of which one is legally trained and three are lay judges, each having an equal vote.

See the comments for pointers to later essays and writings in this series.
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