Finland

Last updated on: 27 April 2012

Criminalisation of HIV transmission/exposure

Finland
Whether Specific law enacted: 
No
Number of people prosecuted: 
Approx. 15
Number of people convicted: 
Approx. 12
Applicable law: 

The Finnish Penal Code Chapter 21 (Homicide and Bodily injury) (21 luku. Henkeen ja terveyteen kohdistuvista rikoksista)

HIV exposure and transmission can be prosecuted.

The maximum sentence applicable is ten years’ imprisonment.

Transmission of other sexually transmitted infections is subject to prosecution.

Key wording in the law: 

Abridged English language version:

Section 1 - Manslaughter (578/1995) A person who kills another shall be sentenced for manslaughter to imprisonment for a fixed period of at least eight years. An attempt is punishable.

Section 3 - Killing (578/1995) If the manslaughter, in view of the exceptional circumstances of the offence, the motives of the offender or other related circumstances, when assessed as a whole, is to be deemed committed under mitigating circumstances, the offender shall be sentenced for killing to imprisonment for at least four and at most ten years. An attempt is punishable.

Section 5 - Assault (578/1995) A person who employs physical violence on another or, without such violence, damages the health of another, causes pain to another or renders another unconscious or to a comparable condition, shall be sentenced for assault to a fine or to imprisonment for at most two years. An attempt is punishable.

Section 6 - Aggravated assault (654/2001) If in the assault grievous bodily injury or serious illness is caused to another or another is placed in mortal danger, the offence is committed in a particularly brutal or cruel manner, or a firearm, edged weapon or other comparable lethal instrument is used and the offence is aggravated also when assessed as a whole, the offender shall be sentenced for aggravated assault to imprisonment for at least one year and at most ten years. An attempt is punishable.

Section 8 - Negligent homicide (578/1995) A person who through negligence causes the death of another shall be sentenced for negligent homicide to a fine or to imprisonment for at most two years.

Section 9 - Grossly negligent homicide (578/1995) If in the negligent homicide the death of another is caused through gross negligence, and the offence is aggravated also when assessed as a whole, the offender shall be sentenced for grossly negligent homicide to imprisonment for at least four months and at most six years.

Section 10 - Negligent bodily injury (578/1995) A person who through negligence inflicts not insignificant bodily injury or illness on another shall be sentenced for negligent bodily injury to a fine or to imprisonment for at most six months.

Section 11 - Grossly negligent bodily injury (578/1995) If in the negligent bodily injury the bodily injury or illness is inflicted through gross negligence, and the offence is aggravated also when assessed as a whole, the offender shall be sentenced for grossly negligent bodily injury to a fine or to imprisonment for at most two years.

Section 5 - Imputability Intent or negligence are conditions for criminal liability. Unless otherwise provided, an act referred to in this Code is punishable only as an intentional act. What is provided in subsection 2 applies also to an act referred to elsewhere in law for which the statutory maximum sentence is imprisonment for more than six months or on which the penal provision has been issued after this law entered into force.

Key Cases: 

In 2008, a young Finnish man was found guilty of five counts of criminal HIV transmission and 14 counts of HIV exposure. He was originally sentenced to ten years in prison. However, following an appeal he was received a further two years in prison.

In 2010, a 28 year-old Kenyan-born woman who worked as an "erotic dancer" was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for not disclosing that she was HIV-positive before having unprotected sex with 16 men during the five year period, 2005-2010. A Court of Appeal decision in 2011 found her not guilty of attempted aggravated assault but only endangerment with a resulting lower sentence – the maximum two years imprisonment.

Discussion: 

It is unclear which general criminal laws can be used to prosecute alleged exposure and transmission in Finland. One department of the Ministry of Justice provided the full list of laws listed above as being applicable to HIV transmission. However, another department only listed Sections 1, 6, 9 and 11 as being applicable. Finland AIDS Council listed Sections 5 and 6 and added to the list Section 13 on Imperilment. Section 13 reads:

"A person who intentionally or through gross negligence places another in serious danger of losing his/her life or health, shall be sentenced, unless the same or a more severe penalty for the act is provided elsewhere in the law, for imperilment to fine or to imprisonment for at most two years."

The reason given by all the respondents for not being definitive in the numbers of people prosecuted and convicted is that these statistics are not kept separate from the umbrella offences under which they are prosecuted.

This, in turn, has led to conflicting information about those being prosecuted. Clear information on cases is difficult in Finland where trials are not public, and findings often sealed. It appears that prior to 2004 it was estimated that between six to twelve people were prosecuted in Finland. Of these, the Ministry of Justice estimates that between five and ten of these cases led to convictions. AIDS and Mobility put the number of people convicted at about seven, whilst the Finland AIDS Council put it at about five.

Since 2004  there have been at least three further cases (two of which are summarised above).

One department of the Ministry of Justice estimated that of those prosecuted, between five to nine were male and one was female. They also report that in only one of these cases was transmission through homosexual sex; the other cases were the result of transmission through heterosexual sex.

AIDS and Mobility agree that most of the people convicted have been heterosexual males. The Finland AIDS Council says at least one of the cases involved transmission through injecting drug use. According to one of the departments of the Ministry of Justice, many of the people prosecuted were foreign nationals, particularly of African and Asian origin. According to another, the majority may have been Finnish. AIDS and Mobility indicates that immigrants have been prosecuted at a higher rate than Finns and that most have been in vulnerable social and economic positions. The group includes individuals from Rwanda, United States, Thailand and Ghana. There have been two prosecutions in the last year, both of which led to the people involved being convicted.

AIDS and Mobility lists the occupations of the people prosecuted as students, spouses and unemployed. The list from the Finland AIDS Council includes musicians, a housewife and some people being unemployed.

Given that there are an estimated 3,000 people living with (diagnosed and undiagnosed) HIV in Finland, this places Finland as one of the top ten countries in the world for prosecutions per capita of PLHIV (5 per 1000).

Survey respondents/Organisations working on HIV and the Law: 

The Office of the Prosecutor General, Helsinki, Finland.

AIDS and Mobility

Finland AIDS Council

HIV Finland

Further reading: 

Other laws and policies with an impact on responses to HIV

Laws and regulations relating to entry, stay or residence in the country: 

There are no restrictions for people with HIV/AIDS. There are no specific legal regulations concerning people with AIDS.

Neither a medical certificate nor an HIV test result is required when entering the country. Foreigners with a known HIV infection are not subject to specific residence regulations. There are no regulations regarding the control, deportation or expulsion of those concerned.

Antiretroviral medication can be imported for personal use for the duration of stay. A doctor’s prescription must be carried.

For updated information, please go to: www.hivrestrictions.org

Laws relating to same sex, sexual relations: 

Male to Male relationships: Legal

Punishments for male to male relationships:  No law

Female to Female Relationships: Legal

Age of consent:  Equal for heterosexuals and homosexuals

Marriage and Substitutes for Marriage: Equal/almost equal substitute nationally recognized

For updated information, please go to: http://ilga.org