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Stealing Food Isn't a Crime if You're Going Hungry, Italian Court Rules

A man who was sentenced to jail time for stealing $5 worth of food will now go free


Italy is known across the globe for its strong food culture, so perhaps it's not so surprising that the nation doesn't want any of its citizens to go hungry. The country's highest court of appeals has just ruled that "Stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime," according to the BBC.

A homeless man named Roman Ostriakov attempted to steal around $5 worth of sausage and cheese from a grocery store in 2011; he purchased breadsticks but stuffed the other merchandise in his pocket, and was convicted of theft after being caught by the store's security.

Last year he was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail — a conviction that a judge has now overturned, ruling that Ostriakov's theft was 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," the court wrote in its decision.

The poverty rate in Italy nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013, with an estimated 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line.