Italian Court: Stealing Food Is Not A Crime If Person Is Desperately Hungry

In Italy, it’s now acceptable to steal small amounts of food – but only if you have an empty stomach.

Italian Court Stealing Food Is Not A Crime If Person Is Desperately Hungry
Photo by Andrew Aitchison

Though enough food is presently produced on the planet to feed 10 people, and despite the fact that 795 million people go to bed hungry each night, countries such as the United States of America continue to waste 30-40 percent of edible food which is produced.

As a result, individuals such as UK resident Roman Ostriakov sometimes have no choice but to steal food in order to obtain the sustenance required to stay alive.

Does this make it right? According to an Italian court, if the person is starving, absolutely.

In 2015, Ostriakov was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail. He also received a €100 fine.

His offense? Stealing cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.

The incident occurred in 2011 and became an ordeal after a customer informed the store’s security that Ostriakov was attempting to leave the Genoa supermarket with food he had not paid for.

BBC reports that Ostriakov’s case was sent to appeal on the grounds that the conviction should be reduced to attempted theft and the sentence cut, as the homeless man hadn’t actually left the shop premise when he was caught.

See also | Houston Police Force Homeless People to Throw Away Food

Years later, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation has finally revisited the case. After going through three rounds in the courts, it was eventually ruled that the “right to survival prevails over property.”

Italian Court Stealing Food Is Not A Crime If Person Is Desperately Hungry s
Credit: Wazobians

The historic ruling overturns the conviction entirely, as well as states that stealing small quantities of food to satisfy a vital need for food is not 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,” wrote the court.

An op-ed published in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian) says that the cassation’s judgment serves to “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”.

See also | War On The Homeless: Cities All Over America Are Passing Laws Making It Illegal To Feed And Shelter Those In Need

Because 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor in Italy every day, it is “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality,” the op-ed adds.

Many are deeming the ruling to be “right and pertinent,” as one should not be punished for attempting to procure that which is essential to survive – especially if they are left without any options.

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