Italy court rules that stealing food when hungry and in need isn't a crime

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A Summer of Discontent for Europe?

On Monday, Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation overturned homeless man Roman Ostriakov's 2011 theft conviction, in which he stole about $4.50 worth of sausages and cheese from a grocery store in Genoa, according to the BBC. In 2015, Ostriakov was sentenced to six months in jail plus a fine.

The "historic" overruling sets the precedence that those who steal a little bit of food when "in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment" are not committing a crime, BBC reported. Instead, doing so is considered to be "a state of necessity."

At first, Ostriakov's lawyers were just trying to cut his sentence short and have the conviction changed to "attempted theft," since he did not flee the grocery store after getting caught.

Local papers agreed with the verdict. "The court's decision reminds us all that in a civilized country no one should be allowed to die of hunger," Italian newspaper La Stampa wrote, according to the Washington Post.

Homelessness in Italy has been on a steady rise, with about one third of its population at risk of poverty, according to Reuters, in 2013.

Italy Court Rules That Stealing Food When Hungry and In Need Isn't a Crime
Source: TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images

Read more: One City's Revolutionary Solution Has Basically Ended Homelessness — Here's How

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