Is Stealing Food Always a Crime?

In 2011, Roman Ostriakov bought a bag of breadsticks from a supermarket in Genoa, Italy, but he was stopped before he could leave. The young homeless man hadn’t paid for a small sausage and two pieces of cheese, totaling 4.07 euros ($4.50 USD), that he had stashed in his pocket. Five years later, after a series of appeals, Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that Ostriakov had taken the food “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment,” and therefore the act did not constitute a crime.

Law, order, and compassion:

  • In times of economic hardship, the court’s ruling “reminds everyone that in a civilized country not even the worst of men should starve,” an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper opined.
  • Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation reviews only the application of law and not the facts of any particular case.
  • The case drew comparisons to the story of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, as the novel's protagonist was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for stealing bread to feed his hungry family.
More Info: BBC

Discussion Comments


Bad court decision driven by emotions without thought. There is always somewhere to eat without stealing in modern society and the option to exchange work for food is the right choice.

While I was living in my car for a few months, there was always the food kitchens and I didn't have to go steal from a store to stave off starvation.

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