Processing of a criminal matter
The processing of a criminal matter comprises four stages:
- pre-trial investigation,
- consideration of charges,
- court hearing and
- enforcement of penalties.
These processing stages are not wholly separate of each other; instead, they are linked with each other and form the processing chain of a criminal matter. The pre-trial investigation authorities, the prosecutor, courts of law and enforcement authorities handle its tasks. These authorities cooperate with each other in order to achieve the highest possible quality and speed in processing the criminal matter.
The processing stages as a whole are called the criminal process
The role of the prosecutor in the criminal process
In the criminal process, the prosecutor has most extensive role of the authorities. In the processing chain, it reaches all the way from the pre-trial investigation to the court hearing.
The prosecutor's tasks focus on the consideration of charges and the court hearing. During the consideration of charges, the prosecutor decides on what matters he or she will take before the court on the basis of the charges he or she has brought. During the trial, it is the prosecutor's responsibility to prove that the offence described in the charge was committed.
The prosecutor will also ensure that the pre-trial investigation carried out before the consideration of charges is sufficiently extensive. The prosecutor will consider more demanding criminal matters already when pre-trial investigation is being started and, at the proposal of the head of the investigation, may also end the pre-trial investigation before the consideration of charges.
The prosecutor's significance during pre-trial investigation is emphasised when a police officer is suspected of an offence. Then, the prosecutor also acts as the head of the investigation who leads the pre-trial investigation.
Consideration of charges
The prosecutor conducts a consideration of charges based on the evidence obtained during the pre-trial investigation. The prosecutor decides whether he or she will bring charges for the suspected offence or not.
A prosecutor is an autonomous and independent administrator of justice in his or her decision-making.
Criminal matters involving the police
In matters involving offences suspected to have been committed by police officers, the prosecutor handles the case from the pre-trial investigation stage all the way to the court proceedings. When a police officer is the subject of a criminal investigation, the prosecutor will exceptionally act as the head of the investigation during pre-trial investigation unlike a pre-trial investigation authority as in other criminal matters.