It's not a crime if hungry poor steal food, Italy says

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Italy's highest court finally acquitted the homeless man over the food theft. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
12:23 CEST+02:00
Italy's highest court has acquitted a homeless man of stealing cheese and sausages, ruling that the theft of small amounts of food by the hungry poor is not a crime.

Ukranian Roman Ostriakov was caught in 2011 pocketing €4.07 ($4.72) worth of food in a supermarket in Genoa, after a customer spotted him and reported him to a member of staff, Italian media reported on Tuesday.

He was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a €100 fine.

But the verdict was appealed on grounds that Ostriakov had been stopped before he had actually left the supermarket, and at a second appeal, Italy's court of cassation acquitted him.

It was clear the defendant "could not live without feeding himself, so acted out of necessity," the court said.

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The Corriere della Sera daily was quick to point out the irony of a legal system in Italy which saw the theft of goods worth fewer than €5 go through three costly rounds of justice - first instance, appeal and cassation - before being thrown out.

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