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NCJ Number: 200823 Find in a Library
Title: From Compurgators to Mixed Courts: Reflections on the Historical Development of Finnish Evidence Law and Court Structure
Journal: International Review of Penal Law  Volume:72  Issue:1-2  Dated:2001  Pages:159-174
Author(s): Heikki Pihlajamaki
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 16
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: France
Annotation: This article discusses Finnish evidence law and court structure.
Abstract: Finland has a system of mixed courts. The lower courts consist of a chairman with legal training, plus three lay assessors with a vote. The development of evidence law is divided into three partly overlapping phases. The first phase is the age of oaths and compurgators. This period began in a time in which no legal sources remained and extended to 1696 when compurgators were prohibited by law. Legal procedure was based on oaths everywhere in Europe. The age of statutory proofs began in the 16th century and ended in the 19th century. The statutory system of evidence, in which full proof consisted in a confession or a statement of two eyewitnesses, was entrenched in many parts of Europe. The age of free evaluation of evidence begins around the middle of the 19th century and still continues. As a result of distrust towards the professional judiciary, the power to decide on the facts was handed over to the people--the juries. The adversary procedure and the principles of orality and publicity were also introduced. The law of evidence and court structure are deeply interconnected. When court reforms are discussed, the role of laypersons is taken for granted because of the long tradition of lay participation. It has been commonly assumed in legal circles that laypersons do the job of evidence evaluation worse than the professional judiciary. The appeals courts do not change decisions in which lay judges outvote the professional judge than they do in general. It doesn’t seem to matter whether laymen decide legal cases well or badly. The weight of the tradition is so heavy that it seems politically impossible to introduce other lay participation themes than those concerning its forms. Bibliography
Main Term(s): Finland; Lay judges
Index Term(s): Court personnel; Court structure; Evidence; Judges; Mixed court system; Trial procedures; Verdicts
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