A millionaire businessman in Finland has been fined €54,000 (£39,000) for speeding. While the businessman’s fine may seem extortionate, it is part of a tradition of “progressive punishment” that stretches back over nine decades.
In Finland, speeding fines are linked to an offender’s income.
Reima Kuisla was driving at 103 km/h (64mph) in an 80 km/h zone. The fine was calculated based on the €6.5m earnings posted on his 2013 tax return.
This is not even the highest ever financial penalty received for speeding in the country. Back in 2002, a Nokia executive received a €116,000 fine for speeding on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Here’s how Finland’s system works
Since 1921, some offences that require a non-custodial sentence in Finland have been punishable by “day-fines”. These are calculated on the basis an offender’s daily disposable income.
In most cases this works out at one sixtieth of mean monthly income after tax. A deduction is applied to the resulting figure to reflect daily living costs (calculated at €255 per month). An additional amount may also be deducted for each dependent (e.g. a non-working spouse or child).
The number of day-fines received is based on the severity of the crime. In this particular case, Kuisla had an income of €6.5m in 2013. His offence was deemed worthy of eight day-fines of €6,750 – which adds up to the €54,000 penalty.
In the past Finnish police had difficulties calculating the size of a fine because people tended to lie about their income when they were caught speeding – but the advent of mobile technology has meant that tax returns can now be verified directly at the roadside.
In 2001 an attempt to cap the amount motorists could be fined was thoroughly rejected by parliament.
All this may seem quite alien to those in other countries, but progressive punishment is actually in action in a number of jurisdictions including Sweden and Germany.
In contrast, most motorists in the UK can request a fixed penalty notice of £60 for general speeding.
However, a progressive model of punishment was once trialled by the Conservative government in England and Wales in 1991. For example, two men involved in a street fight in West Yorkshire, while the law was in place, received differing fines of £640 and £64 based on their income.
The Finnish entrepreneur was unhappy about the size of the fine, and vented his frustration about what he saw as Finland’s hostility towards the wealthy, on his Facebook page.