Racist crimes account for most hate crimes

There is no single universally agreed definition of hate crime. A hate crime is generally taken to mean any criminal act which is motivated by prejudice or hostility against groups of people that the victim represents. The group may be an ethnic group or a group based on sexual orientation. The victim does not necessarily have to be a member of the group. It is enough that the perpetrator assumes so. The victim may also be targeted because he or she has a close relationship with someone belonging to the group or some other connection to the group.

The act can be any criminal offence specified in Finnish legislation. What is critical is the motive behind the act. The act can be, for example, slander, discrimination, assault or criminal damage. A harsher sentence may be imposed when the motive for the act is the victim's race, skin colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Hate crimes on the rise in 2017

A total of 70% of hate crimes reported to the police in Finland are racist crimes. Religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity also appear in police statistics as motives for hate crimes. Only a fraction of hate crimes are reported to the police. Therefore, the police encourage victims to always report an offence to the police if they are the victim of a hate crime.

The Police University College publishes every year a study of hate crimes reported to the police. In 2017, the police recorded 1,165 reports of an offence that were defined as suspected hate crimes. In 2017, the number of hate crimes reported to the police increased by eight per cent compared to the previous year.

Most crimes involved racist elements with the most common offence being assault.

Although the number of hate crimes reported to the police increased, it did not return to the level it was before 2016. In all, the number of hate crimes has levelled off, but it has remained above the long-term average since 2015, when a large number of asylum seekers arrived in Finland. In 2014, the number of suspected hate crimes was 822.