The Central Pohjanmaa district court today sentenced twelve men to suspended sentences of one year and 2 month for an aggravated hunting crime. Three more were acquitted.
The group of 15 was accused to illegally have hunted and killed three wolves in January 2013. In addition, the men received a four years hunting ban and the firearms used in committing the crime were seized. Vehicles and snow mobiles used in committing the crime were returned to the perpetrators. The defense had claimed that the killed animals were no wolves but wolf-dog hybrids and demanded a full acquittal. According to the prosecutor, the group had detailedly planned and precisely executed the hunt in an highly organized fashion.
The offense of aggravated hunting crime was added to the Finnish penal code in 2011 after pressure from the European Union to address illegal wolf hunting and carries a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment. Nature conservation societies have already criticized the judgment as much too lenient.
The convicted acted with high criminal energy and very organized. Handing a suspended sentence in this case is hardly the right signal to poachers. Additionally, in most countries, committing a crime with a firearm leads to mandatory lifelong forfeiture of all firearm licenses. Issuing merely a four years hunting ban and seizure of only the firearms which were used in committing the crime is unprecedented, especially considering the usually very hard line of the Finnish police regarding firearms. In November 2014, police summoned a security professional and sport shooter, threatening him with firearm license forfeiture because of harmless shooting range photos the man had posted on facebook.