Italy’s highest court of appeal has ruled stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger, as ‘not a crime.’ A judge recently acquitted a homeless young man, Roman Ostriakov, who was convicted after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.

According to the court verdict, Mr. Ostriakov, who is of Ukrainian background, had taken the food “in the face of immediate and essential need for nourishment.” Therefore it was not a crime, the verdict said.

Back in 2011, a fellow customer informed the store’s security when Mr Ostriakov attempted to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket but paid only for breadsticks.

He was convicted of theft in 2015 and sentenced to six months in jail and a €100 fine. But now the judges in Italy have ruled that the “right to survival prevails over property,” said an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian).

News reports says Mr. Ostriakov’s case was later sent to appeal on the grounds that the conviction should be reduced to attempted theft and the sentence cut, since the young man had not left the shop premises when he was caught. However, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, which reviews only the application of the law and not the facts of the case, on Monday May 2, made a final and definitive ruling overturning the conviction entirely.

The court wrote:

“Stealing small quantities of food to satisfy a vital need for food did not constitute a crime.

“The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the seizure of merchandise took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of an immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of necessity.”

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In times of economic hardship, the court of cassation’s judgement “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”. As some might regard the ruling as ‘right and pertinent,’ some will definitely frown at it. suggests that Ostriakov will be remembered in this global battle between the haves and have-nots, far beyond their intentions.


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