Almost 150 years after the publication of the famous Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables (in which Jean Valjean served prison time after stealing bread for his sister’s starving children) the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation came with an historic decision. The court 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.
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.”
As it was written in the decision “The condition of the accused and the circumstances in which he obtained the merchandise show that he had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment”.
In a world of extreme inequality, where 62 people own as much as half of the world’s population, in a world where the ones involved in Panama papers tend to phase poverty as a crime and poor people are frequently punished by further impoverishment, the decision of the Italian Court is a small, symbolic sign of hope.
There is also a funny side, as Corriere della Sera mentioned: the Italian justice system spent almost five years to decide on a case for a theft worth less than $5. Fortunately, for all of us in this planet, it was worthy to wait…