It Is Now Legal To Steal Food In Italy

The Italian courts are finally looking after the interests of someone other than Silvio Berlusconi.

In a country "with a burden of 60 billion Euros in corruption per year," Italian citizens were shocked this week to learn of a recent court ruling that protects the lives of society's most vulnerable members. After a five-year legal battle, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation finally ruled in the case of a starving homeless man who stole food in order to survive. The Court decided that the man's thievery was "not a crime" because it occurred "in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment."

More simply put, it is now legal for starving individuals to steal necessary food in Italy.

The homeless man in question, Roman Ostriakov, was arrested five years ago after stealing 4.70 Euros worth of sausages and cheese from a Genoa grocery store. Though he was starving at the time he committed the crime, Ostriakov was charged a 100 Euro fine and spent six months in jail following the incident before embarking on the multi-year legal battle that ended with the May 2 ruling.

In the Supreme Court’s official statement, the justices lay out the details of their decision, stating, “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.” 

Unsurprisingly, this declaration sparked massive outcry across Europe, evoking both positive and negative responses. Some critics mocked the fact that such a trivial case was brought to trial in the first place, suggesting that the Italian justice system would do better to focus its efforts on more important issues.  Others lauded the ruling as major human rights landmark, legitimizing basic human kindness in the eyes of the law.

Either way, there is no question that the Court’s decision marks an important turning point in Italy’s legal stance toward the homeless. Only time will tell whether or not the ruling pays off for the country and its most vulnerable residents.

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