Italy's Court Rules Stealing Food Is Not A Crime, But On One Condition

The case of a homeless man who stole food to satisfy his raging hunger in Italy is being compared to Jean Valjean’s character in 'Les Miserables."


Italy’s highest court has ruled the theft of cheese and sausage by a man in 2011 was not a criminal act because he was desperately hungry.

Roman Ostriakov, a Ukrainian national, bought a bag of breadsticks at a local supermarket but also managed to slip a small sausage and a piece of cheese worth $4.71 in his coat pocket. The homeless man was arrested, convicted and sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of 100 euros ($115).

An Italian prosecutor tried to appeal Ostriakov’s case in 2011, arguing the man should only be charged with attempted theft as he was caught even before he left the store. But the Supreme Court threw out the conviction entirely this week claiming, “The condition of the accused and the circumstances in which he obtained the merchandise show that he had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment.”

Read More: Young Black Man Jailed Since April For $5 Theft Found Dead In Cell

About 615 people in Italy fall below the poverty line every day, suggests the statistics from an Italian newspaper.

The court reminded that in times of economic hardship, “in a civilized country not even the worst of men should starve.”

It’s a great thought but still does not address the fact that stealing food is not a solution for the poor in Italy. Regardless of the fact the man took only a few dollars worth of food, a person shouldn’t have to resort to stealing to feed himself. Creating and reviewing welfare policies for disadvantaged citizens is a more viable option than making it OK for them to resort to crime.

The court’s lenient decision has drawn the approval of humanitarian Italians, but others denounced the Italian justice system for taking five years for a mere case of petty theft.

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Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

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