Italian court rules theft of food to survive is not a crime

Italy’s highest appeal court has ruled that stealing small amounts of food to satisfy hunger is not a crime.

Judges in the Court of Cassation overturned Roman Ostriakov’s conviction for theft, which he gained after stealing cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3) from a supermarket.

Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man from Ukraine, took the food “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment”, the court said.

As such, he had not committed a crime.

In 2011, a fellow customer told the supermarket’s security that Mr Ostriakov had tried to leave the store in Genoa without paying for the cheese and sausages.

Last year he was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a €100 fine.

But the Court of Cassation stated in its judgement: “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.”

Italian newspaper La Stampa said that, for the judges, the “right to survival prevails over property” and that the court’s judgment “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”.

Statistics in Corriere Della Sera meanwhile indicated that 615 people are added to Italy’s poor everyday, saying it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality”.

It also condemned the fact the case had to go as far as it did before being thrown out. said the ruling was “right and pertinent” and stems from a concept that “informed the Western world for centuries - it is called humanity”.

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