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Italy’s Supreme Court of Cessation, the highest court in the land has ruled that theft of small amounts of food out of hunger is not a crime. The landmark ruling was given in the case of a homeless man named Roman Ostriakov, who in 2011 was caught stealing a sausage and some cheese from a Genoa supermarket.

Ostriakov had hidden the goods, worth about $4.50, under his jacket as he paid for breadsticks. He was arrested after a customer informed the store’s security of the theft; and in 2013, he was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail.
The highest court in the land has however overturned his conviction on the grounds that stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime.
The court said: “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,”

Carlo Rienzi, president of a Consumer rights group praised the court’s ruling, he said: “In recent years the economic crisis has increased dramatically the number of citizens, especially the elderly, forced to steal in supermarkets to be able to make ends meet.

“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.”

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