The Chancellor of Justice supervises authorities by handling any written complaints filed in response to their actions. A complaint may be filed with the Chancellor of Justice if the complainant believes that an authority, civil servant or other person/body assigned to carry out public duties has acted in an unlawful manner or failed to fulfil their responsibilities. The Office of the Chancellor of Justice serves its customers in both Finnish and Swedish. Complainants may also file a complaint in the Sámi language.
The Chancellor of Justice can also investigate matters on his own initiative. The Chancellor of Justice is entitled to perform inspections of those authorities, institutions, offices and other units that fall within the scope of his supervisory authority.
The Chancellor of Justice investigates a complaint, if, based on the grounds of the complaint, there is reason to suspect that the party subject to complaint within the supervisory authority of the Chancellor of Justice has acted in an unlawful manner or failed to fulfil their responsibilities, or if, for some other reason, the Chancellor of Justice feels that there is cause for investigation.
The Chancellor of Justice will not handle complaints that concern a matter that is more than two years old unless there are special grounds to do so (until 31 May 2011, the period of limitation was five years). The complainant will be notified without delay if a matter will not be handled for this reason. Furthermore, the complainant will be notified if a particular matter falls beyond the scope of the authority of the Chancellor of Justice. The complainant will also be notified if a matter will not be handled by the Office of the Chancellor of Justice due to the fact that the matter is currently under consideration by a competent authority or in the appeal process. The Chancellor of Justice can forward the handling of a complaint to a competent authority, if there are grounds for such an action based on the nature of the matter. In such cases, the complainant will be notified about the transfer.
The division of the duties of the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman is prescribed by law. For this reason, the Chancellor of Justice does not generally handle complaints that concern the Defence Forces. The Chancellor of Justice does not either handle complaints that concern deprivation of freedom or institutions to which a person has been taken against his/her will. The Chancellor of Justice forwards these types of cases to the Parliamentary Ombudsman for resolution.
How are complaints resolved?
The results of a complaint depend largely upon what is discovered about the matter during the investigation.
The Chancellor of Justice may
- initiate legal proceedings if the matter involves a serious illegality;
- issue a reprimand if the authority in question has acted in an unlawful manner or failed to fulfil its/his/her responsibilities;
- issue instructions concerning the proper legal procedure for future reference by the authority in question;
- draw an authority’s attention to the requirements of good governance or considerations that would advance the realisation of fundamental and human rights;
- issue a proposal recommending that an authority rectify an error or remedy a grievance;
- point out a shortcoming in the legislation and recommend that this shortcoming be remedied;
- present a competent authority with a proposal to resolve a dispute, or recommend that the authority provide compensation for relevant damages.