Long life

A Finnish man was fined £83,000 for speeding because his annual income is £10.1 million

Len McCluskey might approve, but this ruthless system doesn’t make Finnish roads any safer

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

23 May 2015

9:00 AM

I have rather a poor record for speeding over the years. I have been caught by cameras quite often, sometimes getting points on my licence and paying modest fines, and twice avoiding further points by attending speed-awareness courses to be educated in the dangers that speeding can cause. It has all sort of worked; I am now much more careful. But imagine if I was Finnish? According to a report I read recently in the New York Times, a Finnish businessman called Reima Kuisla was fined €54,024 (about £39,000) for driving at 64 mph in a 50 mph zone. This, Mr Kuisla pointed out, was enough to buy a brand-new Mercedes.

But this was not his first speeding fine. In 2013 he drove at 76 mph in a 50 mph zone and was fined even more — €63,448 (about £46,000). The reason he was asked to pay these astonishing sums (which were, however, reduced on appeal to rather fewer thousand euros) was that he was rich, and in Finland fines for more serious speeding infractions are calculated according to a person’s income, the size of which the police can establish in seconds by contacting the Finnish tax office on their mobile devices. Mr Kuisla, a property developer, earned 6,559,742 euros (about £4,730,000) in 2013.

This ruthless system doesn’t seem to make Finnish roads any safer. In 2013 there were 4.7 road deaths in Finland per 100,000 inhabitants as against 2.8 in Britain. But the principle of fining people for minor crimes in this way is an egalitarian measure that perhaps hasn’t yet occurred even to Len McCluskey. He might like to impose it on the next person he appoints as leader of the Labour party. If it had existed here earlier, it might have ensured that the much-convicted new Duke of Marlborough would have had to get rid of Blenheim Palace, which surely would have afforded Mr McCluskey much pleasure.

But as I learnt in my speed-awareness courses, speeding is not to be treated lightly. Even small increases in speed — from 30 to 35 mph, for example — greatly increase the chances of death in a collision. And also speeding cannot be good for hedgehogs, which we are now warned could become extinct in Britain within ten years if more is not done to protect them. There are various reasons for the hedgehog’s decline, but being squashed by cars is an increasingly significant one as Britain’s traffic continues to swell. Hedgehogs are also killed by foxes and badgers, and I agree with Prince Charles, who urged Tony Blair in one of his ‘black spider’ letters to get on with the culling of badgers.

The Times this week, in an editorial calling for action to protect the hedgehog, wisely recommended ‘a less sentimental approach’ to both badgers and foxes. But it will be difficult to achieve this when there are ‘national treasures’ like Joanna Lumley around to drool over the urban fox. She says that she feeds and cares for several ‘completely charming’ foxes that live in her back garden in London. London foxes, she says, ‘lived here before us’ and ‘if we don’t feed them, they get mange and die, and that’s not fair’. She even lets them come into her house so that they can delight in her husband playing the piano. ‘They’re not going to eat sheep here, they’re not going to eat chickens here, because there aren’t any.’

True enough, but they do sometimes attack babies; and, more to the point, they kill hedgehogs. Foxes may or may not have been in London before us — I wouldn’t know — but their numbers have vastly increased with the growth of the human population that discards so much of its food. Foxes, now far thicker on the ground in London than they are in the country, are in seventh heaven there. They find life much easier than in the country, where people shoot them and hunt them, and where they find it much harder to kill my chickens (though they manage it all the same) than to scavenge around people’s dustbins.

But hedgehogs have also migrated to London in large numbers and for similar reasons — more food, no badgers — but are still at the mercy of foxes. Could not Joanna Lumley spare a thought for them? They are ‘completely charming’ too — far more charming than foxes in my opinion — and may be just as fond of the piano. More importantly, they are threatened with extinction, which foxes unfortunately are not.

Oh, by the way. I forgot to say that Mr Kuisla does not hold the record for a Finnish speeding fine. This, it seems, belongs to a Nokia executive who, caught roaring through Helsinki on a motorbike in 2002, was fined more than £83,000, based on an annual income of £10.1 million.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Are speeding fines tax deductible in Finland?

    • kevinlynch1005

      No. As a generality, no jurisdiction of which I can think allows such an offset – it undermines much of the basis of the penalty in terms of its severity. Ex turpi causa, and all that as well….

      • Your command of Law Latin words is obviously wasted on the obvious Internet Troll and fantasist.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    As Finland changed to metric measurement in 1886, how much sense does this story really make, Alex?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    A Finnish man was fined £83,000 for speeding because his annual income is £10.1 million”

  • Hegelman

    How I wish I were a Finn!

    I knew some Finns well and they told me Finland was light years ahead of Britain in social conditions. They could barely believe an intelligent people like the Brits had such horrifically outdated inegalitarian outlooks.

    They reacted to the reality of Britain much as a British tourist might to India.

    • pp22pp

      Their murder and suicide rates are alot higher than ours and their life expectancy a tad lower. They have the advanteges of low population density and a homogeneous population. Maybe they shouldn’t be so smug.

      • AgZarp

        Perhaps they have different priorities, and to live a longer life under our conditions would pose little attraction to them. I don’t know, depends on what ‘social conditions’ means here.

        • pp22pp

          I don’t know Finland, but I do know Holland and the Dutch never stop telling you how wonderful they are – then you end up living there and find out Holland has all the problems that every other PC, multiculti society has.

      • Thomas William Dunlop

        These statistics have nothing to do with speeding fines. There are comination of nature (some genetics such as adverse responses to alcohol, A lot of Finns get very drunk very quickly due to having less Alchohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that eliminates it from the body, as well as some other mutations that alllow the ethanol to pontetiate the neurotransmitter systems of the brain, resulting in a more “stoned” like euphoria) and nurture (long dark winters, unusual reservedness) .

        On issues of alcohol, that appear to behind a lot of the violence up this way (resident for nigh on 17 years now, luckily with a southern european wife to temper my northern european temprement) , I find the heavy handed statist control of alcohol that you find in Scandinavia, counterproductive and contradictory. I do believe that if you treat the population as children , they will & do respond with infantile behaviour, and that is what you get in return, with Alcohol consumption becoming a totemic symbol forhappiness in society. The contradictory point comes from the issue, that even though alcohol above 4.8 % can onle be purchased in bars or state owned shops, beers is sold everywhere 7 days a week. This allows people to be drunk at anytime . This policy is in no doubt a sop to shops and domestic brewing industry that make predominately beers and cider.

        On the issue of speeding fines, I think it a fair policy and should be extended to other countries and to other types of traffic offences such as illegal parking etc. Taxation is far too regressive , penalising people with less income disproportionately.

  • TJGR

    When I went up before the beaks for speeding a few years ago, I was asked to supply details of my income, and that of my wife. I presume they used this information to calculate the fine.

  • Tom W Huxley

    Shouldn’t these fines be punitive in order to prevent reoccurrence of the crime? I somehow can’t see a £200 fine affecting this driver’s future behaviour.

    • starfish

      In that case ban him or jail him

      Why bother fining him?

  • Benjamin O’Donnell

    Income proportionate fines seem to me to be an obvious measure. Fines should hurt the same whether you’re a pensioner or Bill Gates. But beyond speeding fines, the real place this sort of thing is needed is in corporate fines for breaches of health& safety regs or banking laws. A fine should not be just a minor cost of doing business for a big Bank like Barclay’s. Fines for serious corporate infractions should be enough to turn a quarterly profit into a quarterly loss. *That* will get the shareholders clamoring for better corporate behaviour.

  • Dale

    Why is this considered radical? Fines should hurt everyone the same regardless of income.

  • Oliver St.John-Mollusc

    A noose for the repeating offender……. he-ar he-ar … mumble mumble … a hanging… mumble mumble – no income in that though mumble mumble

  • Oliver St.John-Mollusc

    so if I’m in debt and living off the welfare in Finniland, I’ll get a rebate if I’m caught speeding? The faster I go the more money I get?

  • starfish

    Just think of the fines cabinet ministers and union leaders would get…..

  • disqus_9I6C4azbIA

    In the UK we are far too tolerant of driving offenders. They put peoples lives at risk and like the writer of this article seem proud of their ability do drive fast.Given that motorist are poisoning our lungs it is time we took a zero tolerance policy with regard to these petrolheads as we do with smokers.

    • Andy M

      I’m not sure we are that tolerant. All it takes is three infractions worth three points each and you’re banned from driving. That’s actually quite easy to do. Most people would have trouble fitting in attending a road safety course into their daily schedules to be able to lose some of these points. I know I panicked when I received just three points! Contrast that with countries in the EU, where unless you are involved in something particularly bad you can pretty-much just pay a relatively small fine for speeding or skipping a light and that’ll be the end of it.

  • Callipygian

    Sorry, I have absolutely no sympathy for the umpteenth thousandth chicken-raiser (they are basic birds, let’s face it) hating foxes because they can get into the coop.

    Humans have been raising poultry for how long now? Many thousands of years. And we have satellites and space probes, and man-on-the-moon is old hat now. Yet you cannot devise a system for keeping foxes away from chickens! It’s not the foxes’ fault if hen-keepers are lazy and dense!