Fur shop arson conviction overturned

Finland’s Supreme Court has overturned a decision to jail a mentally ill man who claimed he burnt down a fur shop during a meeting with his doctor.

In the most severe sentence ever imposed for so-called animal rights activism, a young Turku man was given a three-year sentence after declaring he had set fire to the store, above which dozens of people were asleep.

Despite breaking the doctor-patient confidentiality privilege, medical personnel reported the man to police, and the crime was deemed to be serious enough to allow the doctor to testify. The man, who was undergoing treatment for a mental health complaint, said he made up the story about setting the 2008 fire in order to get his condition taken more seriously.

Despite the Appeals Court upholding the conviction, the Supreme Court finally threw the case out last week, claiming the confession was not sufficient evidence as the particulars of the fire were common knowledge in the community.

A pair of trousers, with traces of DNA from the accused and another person, were found in a rubbish bin near the arson site, along with items that may have been used to start the fire. The court ruled, however, that this also was not sufficient to prove guilt.