Criminal procedure and legal proceedings

Child sexual abuse is a crime. When suspicions arise and a report of an offence is made, the police will decide on whether there are sufficient grounds to launch a pre-trial investigation. Pre-trial investigation is performed when there is reason to suspect that an offence has been committed. Even if no pre-trial investigation is launched or charges pressed, the child might need care or support from child welfare services. Child welfare and health care professionals will assess the need for care and support. When suspicions of child sexual abuse are reported to the police for investigation, the police are obliged to file a child welfare notification. Likewise, child welfare authorities (alongside several other authorities) have the obligation to report any suspicions of child sexual abuse to the police if no report has yet been filed.
 
Conviction of the suspected offender might feel more important to the parents than the child. The best approach might be to think that the child's part in the process is over after he or she has told about the matter during the pre-trial investigation and any medical examinations have been performed. After that, the child should be able to continue living as normally as possible. In cases of word against word, with no evidence of the suspected offence other than the child's story, it may be that there is insufficient evidence to sentence the suspected offender. While this might be difficult for parents to accept, we must remember that the Finnish legal system is based on the principle of proving the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The child's story will not necessarily be considered any less credible if the suspected offender is not convicted of the crime. In our experience, what matters most to the child is support and a listening ear from the people closest to them. Regardless of the outcome of legal proceedings, what matters most is continuing with everyday life and looking to the future.
 
In the autumn of 2013, the Ministry of Justice published a guide for parents and guardians whose child is suspected of having become a victim of a crime (available only in Finnish). The guide contains information on the various stages of the criminal procedure and how the parent or guardian can best support the child, as well as basic information on practical arrangements during the criminal investigation and trial. It addresses most common concerns of parents and provides information on sources of help, support and assistance.
Support during the criminal procedure is provided by Victim Support Finland.

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