Italy’s apex court has ruled that stealing, when committed for food in desperate need, is not considered a crime.
The ruling came as part of a case that involved Ukranian Roman Ostriakov, a homeless man, who was caught stealing a sausage and cheese from a Genoa supermarket in 2011.
As reported by TheLocal.it, he stole food worth €4.07 ($4.72) from the supermarket. The theft was brought to light after a customer noticed Ostriakov and informed a member of staff about it. Consequently, Ostriakov was given a six-month prison sentence and was imposed a fine of €100.
The appeal was based on the argument that the culprit had been apprehended before he exited the supermarket. He was acquitted by Italy’s court of cassation in a second appeal.
“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,” the court, as reported by CNN.
The decision, which comes at a time when a lot of people in the country are facing the crisis of poverty, has been lauded by some in Italy. As reported by the Guardian, Carlo Rienzi, president of consumer rights group Codacons, said, “In recent years the economic crisis has increased dramatically the number of citizens, especially the elderly, forced to steal in supermarkets to be able to make ends meet.”
The publication also noted that some, on the contrary, have pointed Italy’s notorious legal system; saying that it took a three-part trial – the first hearing, the appeal and the final supreme court ruling – to arrive at a decision in a case that involved stealing of food less than €5.
An op-ed in Corriere Della Sera revealed that the population of poor in Italy grows by around 615 people every day. Other studies have shown that one in four people in Italy are threatened by poverty.