Homeless man set free after Italian court rules stealing food due to hunger is no crime

ITALY - Italy's highest court ruled on Monday (May 2) that a homeless man's theft of cheese and sausages was not a crime.

Ukrainian Roman Ostriakov, 36, was caught stealing about €4.07 (S$6.30) worth of food in Genoa, Italy, in 2011.

A fellow customer reported him to the grocery store's security.

In 2015, he was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of €100 for theft.

However, his case was sent to appeal for a shorter sentence.

Mr Ostriakov was caught before he left the store so the appeal suggested it was a case of attempted theft, rather than theft.

Instead, Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation overruled the conviction, ruling that he was cleared of all charges.

The written ruling stated that the accused "had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment".

Italian newspapers like La Stampa and news sites such as Italiaglobale.it applauded the ruling.

Said a front page editorial in La Stampa: "The right to survive prevails over property."

It added that "in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve".

Italiaglobale.it said the ruling was grounded in a concept that has "informed the Western world for centuries - it is called humanity".

Other newspapers like Corriere Della Sera focused on the larger problem of poverty that Italy faces.

The opinion piece in Corriere Della Sera drew attention to statistics showing that every day, 615 new people experience poverty in Italy, according to the BBC.

The piece said that it was "unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality".

It added that it was "absurd" that the goods were worth less than €5 but the case had taken five years to be resolved, according to The Telegraph.