Five year ago, Roman Ostriakov, a homeless Ukrainian living in Italy, attempted to steal cheese and sausages worth $4.50 (€4.07). Before he could leave the supermarket, though, Ostriakov was caught and convicted of theft. He was ordered to pay a fine of $115 (€100) and spend six months in jail.
But Italy’s supreme court has overturned the conviction, writing:
The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need.
“For the judges, the right to survival has prevailed over the right to property,” says Massimo Gramellini, an editor of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. He adds that in America this would be “blasphemy.”
Gramellini is partially right. While the court was right to show mercy to Ostriakov, they’ve essentially set of precedent for legalized theft. While it may seem compassionate for the judges to allow those in need to have access to other people’s property, the result is likely to lead to greater harm of the poor.