Police: We take threats very seriously ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

PPA's Kristjan Jaani.
PPA's Kristjan Jaani. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

In recent weeks, several politicians and journalists have published death threats and threats of physical violence they have received. In many cases, the police do not end up identifying the constituent elements of an offense, as a result of which the person behind the threat only gets a warning from police. The police stress, however, that they take all threats about which they are notified very seriously, and the threats are addressed even in cases where a criminal investigation is not launched.

"You scruffy-looking trash, you will get what you deserve, and there will be 20-30 people with a prison mentality behind it," read part of a longer message sent to Reform Party chairwoman and MP Kaja Kallas last week.

"Hello d*ckhead! Let's hope that you don't live very long!!! Or should it be shortened! Moron," read a message sent to Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) deputy chairman and Minister of the Interior Martin Helme earlier this year.

"Sukles. Count on the fact that if EKRE wins the elections..rats like you will be shot on site, without trial," read a message sent to Haapsalu Mayor Urmas Sukles.

"I was bothered by it, but I think my 90-year-old mother, for example, was more bothered by it, who read that someone wants to kill her son," Sukles said. "As far as I know, this individual was spoken with, and that was sufficient for me."

Journalists are the frequent target of threats as well. Postimees deputy editor-in-chief Aivar Reinap, for example, was threatened with assault.

"When someone is already looking you up personally, then that is no longer just randomly acting out on your emotions online; now it's become personal," Reinap said. "A few days later, the police informed me that they had found the person, and that the person had just been acting out — that they were an emotional person."

What do these various threats have in common? In all of these cases, the police did not determine any credible threat, and did no launch a criminal investigation.

Investigated in cases of chance of realizing threat

But how can the police read the minds of the people behind the threats and be sure that they don't intend to act on their threats?

"Indeed, many are such in which case, together with the Prosecutor's Office, we do not identify the constituent elements of an offense and do not launch an investigation, but that does not mean that the police do not take any sort of procedural steps to make completely sure of what the goal of the [threat] was," Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Northern Prefect Kristjan Jaani explained.

"In addition to words, there needs to be a very real, objective opportunity behind them to make good on the threat," he added.

When the recipient of a threat reports it to the police, the person behind it is sought whenever possible, and they are spoken to even if there are no grounds for launching a criminal investigation, Jaani said. Their names cannot be published, however, if no criminal investigation is launched.

"This is a broader societal discussion," the prefect said. "It has previously been demanded that we publish the names of drunk drivers, pedophiles and so on. In this case, it's a matter of the fact that we're not dealing with an investigation right now; we're acting on the basis of the Law Enforcement Act."

Nonetheless, not all threats end in just a talking-to. In 2016, for example, the criminal case of a man who had threatened former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas ended with the defendant sentenced to two years in prison, of which he had to serve three months. In that particular case, the police identified an actual threat, as the man behind the threat had sought means of accessing Rõivas.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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