Italian Court Rules That Stealing Food Is ‘Not A Crime’ As Long As You Are Poor And Hungry

In Italy, the court system recently claimed that stealing food is actually not a crime. However, there is one particular stipulation that must be met for such criteria to be in effect. The person stealing said food must be poor and hungry.

According to an article by the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC), judges of an Italian court overturned the conviction of theft against Roman Ostriakov. Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian ethnicity who had stolen food — cheese and sausages worth €4.07 ($4.50 USD) — when he was “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment.” From information attained at the scene of the theft, a fellow customer informed the store’s security personnel Roman Ostriakov tried to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket but paid only for some breadsticks. That was back in 2011. Four years later in 2015, Ostriakov was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail with a fine of €100.

Food Stalls
That sentence has now been annulled. According to an article by Metro, the Italian Supreme Court provided a statement on their reason for the annulment in which they picked human life over personal property.

“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.”

Summarized, the Italian courts are taking the mantra that the “right to survival prevails over property” which was thoroughly highlighted in an op-ed for the Italian news outlet La Stampa. In it, it states that in times of economic hardship, the court’s judgment “reminds everyone that in a civilized country, not even the worst of men should starve.”

Homeless Man, Rome
Another op-ed in the Corriere Della Sera provides a staggering statistic that every single day in Italy, 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor and homeless. That means that almost 225 thousand people every year become poor and homeless in Italy, a country suffering economically. Ergo, the op-ed claims the court ruling is both “right and pertinent” given the situation happening in the country. The only criticism that was brought up was that it took three rounds in the courts for the Italian judicial system to throw out the case of a man, who was lacking in income but rich in hunger, taking goods worth under five Euros.

However, there are some protections provided to the food store owners as well. Those who are both poor and hungry can take food if it is necessary for survival, but it has to be an amount that is necessary for survival. Ergo, said poor and hungry individuals will not get away stealing a case of alcohol per se.

It was not explained if this new condition pertaining to food vendors and the poor would become law or not. Also, the “loophole” or “stipulation” has yet to be tested for the long-term. It is possible the poor who are hungry and cannot afford the basic amount of food needed just to survive may abuse their privilege, especially if there is no limit on how many times per day said poor and hungry can take food even if it is the bare minimum.

[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]