No charges filed over sexual abuse suspicions at Adventist boarding school

Suspicions of sexual abuse of children within the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which were raised last autumn, are not leading to the filing of criminal charges.

State Prosecutor Päivi Hirvelä decided not to file charges after reviewing the evidence gathered during the police investigation into the matter. The statute of limitations had run out for some of the incidents described by the pupils of the Adventist-run boarding school Toivonlinna in Piikkiö in the southwest of Finland .
Hirvelä says that most of the rumours were not confirmed in the investigation, and many of the suspicions proved to be unfounded.

Allegations of systematic child abuse at the school were first made public in September on the investigative television programme MOT on YLE TV-1.

The investigation revealed that there were situations in the 1980s when members of the staff had engaged in inconsiderate or inappropriate behaviour toward the pupils. However, Hirvelä says that this did not constitute criminal activity.

Four former pupils at the school told police that they had been sexually abused by certain members of the staff in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Hirvelä does not comment on their possible innocence or guilt, because the statute of limitations for all of the alleged acts has run out. She also will not say whether or not she feels that the rules should be changed in sex crimes to allow prosecution for older offences.

The documents that form the basis of the decision not to prosecute are to be held secret.

The police interrogated 55 people in connection with their investigation. Five of them were seen as potential suspects, seven as victims, and the rest as witnesses.

In the autumn of 2002, 17 members of the Finnish Seventh Day Adventist Church wrote a letter to the leadership of the church. They said that there had been reports in their congregation about sexual harassment and abuse that had taken place at the school, and named two people alleged to have been involved.

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