Italy: Stealing Food Not a Crime if You're Starving, Homeless
Court's ruling would be 'blasphemy in America'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2016 6:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – This week, Italy's highest court ruled it's not illegal for a starving homeless person to steal food needed to survive, the Guardian reports. The ruling stems from a 2011 incident in which a homeless man named Roman Ostriakov paid for a bag of breadsticks at a supermarket while concealing a small amount of cheese and sausage. Ostriakov was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine in 2013, but that conviction has now been overturned by Italy's supreme court. "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," CNN quotes the court as saying.

The decision was hailed by many. One Italian columnist writes the ruling shows the "right to survival prevails over property," the BBC reports. That same columnist says it's a ruling that would be "blasphemy in America." "The supreme court has established a sacrosanct principle: a small theft because of hunger is in no way comparable to an act of delinquency, because the need to feed justifies the fact,” the Guardian quotes the president of a consumer rights group as saying. Others complained that it took a three-part trial over the theft of less than $5 worth of food just to conclude that no crime had been committed.