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Entrance exam error affects 600 law degree hopefuls

July 10th 2020 at 07:58

Officials at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) have said that they detected an error in the assessment of candidates' responses during the second stage of joint selection law school entrance exams.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the university said that an automated optical assessment had mistakenly subtracted points for all questions where candidates had selected a "no" response.

The mistake was first identified by way of social media discussions and feedback the institution received. UEF rector Tapio Määttä tweeted about the discovery on Thursday.

"I noticed a discussion on Jodel titled 'points miscalculated in law school entrance exam'," he wrote, referring to Jodel, a mobile community app widely used by young people in Finland.

A total of 620 candidates participated in the second phase of the entrance exam and the marking error affected the majority of them. The university has since informed all of the candidates about the evaluation glitch.

The university said that it is addressing the error by reviewing student selection decisions. The joint selection exams involve the universities of Helsinki, Eastern Finland, Lapland and Turku. They all issued statements expressing regret over the situation.

Successful students to retain places

The situation will likely affect candidates who have already been accepted to study law at the university.

Professor Antti Aine, chair of the joint selection board for the legal profession, said that it is possible that candidates who have already received acceptance letters will be in for disappointment.

"We cannot rule out the possibility at this stage. The overall situation is regrettable, but at this stage it’s important to remain calm because we do not yet know the practical repercussions," he noted.

UEF said that checks are currently taking place to determine how many candidates were affected by the assessment error. This will then determine if more students should be accepted for the law programme or if some candidates who have already been accepted will lose their study places.

However the joint selection board said on Friday that students who have been informed they were accepted into law programmes will not lose their places.

In May, media reported on mistakes detected during the first phase of online law school entrance exams. The second phase of the tests took place in a traditional exam setting.

"This spring we have conducted the entrance exams in very challenging and unusual circumstances. It is clear that we have succeeded in many respects but there are areas that require improvement. We will analyse what is needed to develop those processes in the future," Aine said.

UEF said that it would provide an update on the situation on 13 July.

Edit: Updated at 11.55am to add new information that students who were accepted on the basis of the test will not lose their study places.

A man died while being detained by Helsinki police. What happened?

July 10th 2020 at 09:30

In 2018, a man suspected of drunk driving lost consciousness and died after being restrained by police. An investigation cleared the police involved of causing his death, but the results of the investigation remain classified.

Svenska Yle re-examined the case of Ghanaian Samuel Dolphyne and found that some risk factors were likely present during the encounter with police. The recreation of what happened that night is based on the investigation conducted by prosecutors.

On Saturday 17 November, 2018, Dolphyne, a Ghanaian resident in Austria and a friend resident in Finland attended a party organised by a local Ghanaian group in Helsinki’s Siltamäki district. Dolphyne, his friend and a third person left the party by car after 11pm, with Dolphyne at the wheel. "I wasn't with him (Dolphyne) all the time at the party. I played music during the party, but I saw that he was drinking a beer," the friend later told police.

In Malmi, a police patrol with two constables followed and pulled Dolphyne over, saying that he was travelling at 60 kilometres per hour in a 30 - 40-kilometre-per-hour zone. After failed attempts to administer a proper breathalyser test, they decided to place him in the patrol car and take him for a blood test to determine his blood alcohol level.

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Vägkorsning i Övre Malm i Helsingfors. I bakgrunden finns en kyrka med ett stort kors på väggen.
Police stopped Dolphyne at the intersection of Kunnantie and Kirkonkyläntie.Yle/ Christoffer Gröhn

Dolphyne resisted as the police officers tried to get him into the patrol car. According to the officers he became upset and aggressive. They wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him as he lay on his stomach. According to the police account, Dolphyne continued to kick at the police, trying to get off the ground. The younger officer allegedly moved pressure from the centre of the body to the back of Dolphyne’s thigh, while the other tried to use his legs to prevent the suspect from kicking.

Something was not right

At this point, another patrol that the senior cop radioed for help arrived at the scene. They saw two policemen trying to restrain a man on the ground while another man shouted at them -- it was Dolphyne’s friend, who had now got out of the car.

"I saw two police officers. One was on Dolphyne’s back and the other was holding his neck and trying to hold his head. I was stressed and shouted at the police. I was about 30 metres from the spot. At first I was five metres away but the police told me to move," the friend said during questioning. Police later denied that they held the man by his neck.

The two officers in the second patrol grabbed and secured Dolphyne’s legs with restraints. The older constable from the first patrol continued to use his body weight to subdue Dolphyne. Police said that the entire situation lasted between two and two and half minutes and that Dolphyne was still moving. He was then taken to the car, but the younger officer noticed that something was not right -- Dolphyne was not responding to verbal commands. Police then removed the handcuffs and leg restraints and administered first aid. They called an ambulance that rushed Dolphyne to Meilahti hospital.

An investigation found that the situation lasted for 15 minutes, from 11.20 to 11.35pm.

No drugs or alcohol detected

The following day at 4pm, the Helsinki police department issued a press release indicating that a man "suspected of drunk driving suddenly lost consciousness during an arrest in Malmi". Half an hour later, the hospital informed police that Dolphyne had died. He was 45.

Blood tests taken at the hospital showed no alcohol or drugs in the dead man’s system. A death in police custody always triggers an investigation. In Dolphyne’s case prosecutors cleared police of wrongdoing but classified the results of the investigation, so it remains unclear why he died.

"The investigation into the cause of death shows that police use of force has not directly caused Dolphyne's death," the prosecutor wrote at the time.

Risk factors involved

Ingemar Thiblin, a professor of forensic medicine at Sweden’s Uppsala University, said he cannot comment on the police officers’ actions in the case of Samuel Dolphyne, but he did highlight potential risk factors in placing a person to lie on their stomach.

"For a healthy person, there are no major risks except that breathing is slightly affected. If it occurs during a struggle, breathing can be at risk. Furthermore, if the person is highly agitated and stressed, that creates another risk factor. In addition, if the person is obese and has a large stomach, there is a risk of putting pressure on the diaphragm from below," Thiblin told Svenska Yle.

It is possible to conclude from the police statements that Dolphyne was aggressive and upset. He was also said to have a fairly large stomach. Without directly stating what caused his death, it is possible that some risk factors were present during his detention.

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Ylilääkäri Ingemar Thiblin, Ruotsin oikeuslääkintävirasto
Professor Ingemar Thiblin authored a report on deaths in police custody.Yle, Ghadi Boustani

Sitting position used in Sweden

In 2011, Thiblin authored a report titled "Deaths by police intervention" in which he also looked at studies that recommended people be placed in a stomach-down position for as short a period as possible. In addition, restraint techniques should be designed to minimise pressure on the torso or upper body, the report advised.

"In the past, guidelines in Sweden were to subdue a person and hold them until they calm down before putting on handcuffs. Now the recommendation is to put on handcuffs as soon as possible and then place the person in a sitting position. Since the new guidelines were introduced, this type of death has decreased," Thiblin said.

"It seems to have an effect and is something for police to consider. In addition, the restraint technique has been redesigned to only hold the arms and not to apply pressure to the torso or upper body," he added.

Jani Vainio is a use of force instructor at Finland’s Police University College in Tampere. He declined to be interviewed about arrest and restraint techniques used in Finland but said via email that such information is classified.

"The police choose the most appropriate means of force based on the person's resistance, the circumstances and other factors that influence the situation," Vainio wrote.

The National Police Board also told Svenska Yle that use of force instructions are confidential.

Handcuffs can cause stress

Helsinki University professor of forensic medicine Antti Sajantila said he preferred not to comment on the Dolphyne case but volunteered his opinion on the risks associated with applying pressure on someone lying on their stomach.

"Empirical studies show that breathing is hampered by pressure on the back, but this may not be significant from a clinical point of view. A simulation similar to an arrest situation has been conducted. The person moved so that the heart rate rose and was then placed on the stomach with weight on the back. Breathing became more difficult but it should not lead to clinical problems," Sajantila concluded.

Sajantila said that handcuffs can cause stress and noted that even young people have died of sudden cardiac arrest although they had no structural heart failure.

"Some genes may predict a tendency for [heart] rhythm disorders," he added.

"Pressing on the neck is another matter, but pressure on the back and the area around the lungs should not have the same impact. But it can be significant in the case of a stressful situation and can cause sudden cardiac arrest. More genetic research is needed to understand which mechanisms are at play," he said.

The professor of forensic medicine said he sees no need to advise the police to avoid keeping people on their stomachs for long periods.

"It is a difficult question because different people react in different ways. But one factor that can be looked at is the genetic factors behind rhythm disorders that can be triggered by the stress of being arrested by police. But the police cannot know this in advance," Sajantila noted.

Buried in 2019, remembered in 2020

Samuel Dolphyne was buried in Helsinki in early 2019. Some time after his death, his sister said in a Facebook video that she would raise money to have him buried in Austria. That never happened.

Instead, he was buried in Malmi cemetery on a snowy day on 31 January, 2019. Svenska Yle reached out to Dolphyne’s friend who was at the scene when he was detained, but he did not want to be interviewed. Nor did the police involved. Helsinki police department said that individual police officers do not comment on cases.

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Demonstranter med Black Lives Matter-plakat.
A group of demonstrators gathered outside Helsinki's Pasila police station in June.Yle/ Matti Myller

Inspired by global Black Lives Matter protests over the death of George Floyd last month, people gathered outside Helsinki’s Pasila police station in Helsinki for a demonstration organised by the African Anti-Racism Society.

The African community say they want answers to the question of what happened to Samuel Dolphyne during his detention by police in 2018.

"We do not have information about what happened and we want justice. We have not seen any report on it, but we are not accusing the police. We just want to know what caused his death," human rights activist Eugene Ufoka said.

Tax authority: Update tax cards now to avoid nasty surprises later

July 10th 2020 at 11:02

The Finnish Tax Administration is calling on income earners to update their withholding tax information in good time to ensure they don’t pay more tax than they should, especially if their incomes took a hit from the coronavirus crisis.

According to data from the Finnish Tax Administration, more than 620,000 income earners updated their tax cards earlier this year. The changes have so far not been out of the ordinary, although many people’s circumstances would have changed during the spring crisis.

"If you are temporarily laid off and are getting an unemployment allowance, then for example [benefits agency] Kela will directly deduct 20 percent [tax] and unions will take 25 percent so you don’t necessarily have to update your tax card separately," the tax authority’s senior officer Päivi Ylitalo said.

"But of course if salaried income shrinks considerably and you are getting the benefit, then at that stage the card should be updated because a lower tax rate will likely be applied to your final income," she added.

The tax administration said that it expects to see a flurry of activity as income earners rush to update their tax cards after the summer holidays. By that time many people who have been furloughed will know if they will be called back to work or if they will have to continue to rely on benefits.

When they know what the situation will be during the autumn, they will be in a better position to estimate their total income by the end of the year.

"It’s best to check as early as possible and not to leave it too late in the year, when the tax rate could suddenly rise [if income is higher than originally estimated]. In a worst-case scenario, a huge chunk of your December salary could be taxed because the previous tax rate had been too low," Ylitalo explained.

Deductions allowed for telecommuting expenses

Another reason early autumn is a good time to check income levels and tax rates is because employers will likely begin winding down telecommuting and employees will have a better idea of just how much remote work they would have done during the year.

"If you have been telecommuting and you have not been accruing the work-related travel expenses used to calculate your tax rate, then you should update your tax card," Ylitalo advised.

Although employees will not be able to claim as much of a tax relief based on the cost of their work commutes, they could also seek tax deductions based on the cost of working from home. For example, these may include credits for a home office, working tools, equipment and internet connections.

Employees get an automatic 750-euro deduction to cover costs associated with earning an income. However most people temporarily telecommuting will hardly find that their expenses exceed this allowance.

Coronavirus cases fall in Finland despite increased testing

July 10th 2020 at 13:14

The number of lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in Finland is continuing to fall, even as the the number of tests being carried out increases.

Friday 10 July marks exactly one month since a coronavirus infection was confirmed in the city of Tampere, Finland's second largest urban area.

This suggests the virus is not currently present in the region, as a record number of people have been tested yet no infections have been found, according to Janne Laine, a doctor of infectious diseases at Tampere University Hospital.

In total, nearly 25,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in the Pirkanmaa region since the outbreak began, with just over 200 confirmed cases. In Helsinki, almost 125,000 people have been tested.

Laine added that everyone in the Pirkanmaa Hospital District, where Tampere University Hospital is located, who has reported respiratory symptoms has been tested.

The situation in Pirkanmaa is reflected across the country, as 16 of Finland’s 19 other hospital districts have reported no new coronavirus infections over the last 10 days.

Only hospital districts covering Helsinki and Uusimaa, Southwest Finland, Central Finland and Päijät-Häme have seen an increase in cases during this period.

Flu increases frequency of testing

Despite the drop in confirmed cases, the number of tests being carried out has continued to rise -- especially over the last few days as an increasing number of people are reporting to healthcare services with respiratory symptoms.

According to Laine, up to 400 people were tested in Pirkanmaa on Wednesday this week. The figure for the whole of Finland on that day was almost 4,000.

"Respiratory infections seem to be evident now among the population. These are caused by other diseases and flus," Laine said.

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Tampereen yliopistollisen sairaalan infektiolääkäri Janne Laine
Janne Laine, Doctor of Infectious Diseases at Tampere University Hospital.Yle

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) does not keep precise information on the number of influenza viruses, as they do not usually exist during the summer, or only in very mild forms.

The increase in the number of flu cases is due to the lifting of restrictions that had been in place to control the spread of coronavirus, as people are on the move more and social distancing and hand hygiene may no longer be such a priority for people as it was in the spring.

"That’s when these common diseases are usually in motion," Laine added.

The risk still exists

The threshold for access to coronavirus tests was lowered in April as testing capacity increased in Finland, and Laine hopes it will be kept at a low level.

"In principle, if there are any respiratory symptoms, such as cough, fever, runny nose, headache, you can ask to take the test," Laine advised, adding that extensive testing is in everyone's best interest, as it quickly reveals coronavirus infections.

It is also part of Finland's strategy to tackle a potential second wave of the virus.

"The purpose of extensive testing is that the new wave will not come as a surprise," Laine said. "It is quite likely that the coronavirus will make some kind of return at some point. Hopefully the second wave will be diluted, it will be noticed in time and it will be possible to prepare for it."