Stealing Out of Hunger Not a Crime, Italian Court Rules

June 26, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. out of necessity / aʊt ʌv nəˈsɛs ɪ ti / (idiom) – because of great need
Example: She sold most of her possessions out of necessity when she became broke.

2. convict / kənˈvɪkt  / (v.) – to say that someone is guilty of doing a crime
Example: The court convicted the man of theft.

3. unlawful / ʌnˈlɔ fəl / (adj.) – not following the law
Example: Taking someone’s property by force is unlawful.

4. sneak / snik / (v.) – to take something in or out of a place secretly
Example: Alcohol was not allowed in the room, but the man sneaked in some beer.

5. nourish / ˈnɜr ɪʃ / (v.) – to give food and nutrition
Example: Parents have the responsibility to nourish their children.

Read the text below.
Stealing food out of necessity is not a crime, according to a ruling by the highest court of Italy.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Cassation has overturned a court ruling that convicted Roman Ostriakov of theft.  Ostriakov is a 36-year-old homeless man with Ukrainian roots. The Supreme Court of Cassation has the power to review decisions made by lower courts and to reverse those that it deems unlawful.

In 2011, Ostriakov tried to sneak food worth around $4.50 out of a supermarket in Genoa, northwest Italy. Driven by hunger, he hid a small pack of sausages and two pieces of cheese in his pocket because he did not have enough money to buy them.

In 2015, Ostriakov was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and a fine of €100, or around $113. After the decision on Ostriakov’s case was released, his lawyers appealed to a lower court to make his sentence lighter, but the appeal was rejected.

However, when it reached the Supreme Court of Cassation, the court pronounced Ostriakov innocent because he only acted out of great need. According to the court, taking a small quantity of food to satisfy the need to be nourished and to survive is not a crime.

The court’s decision received praise from many. An Italian newspaper reported that the decision showed that the judges valued the basic human right to survive more than the right to own property.

On the other hand, a similar case in the United States ended differently. The case of Michael Riggs, a 25-year-old homeless man who took vitamins from a grocery store in California, was not heard in the US Supreme Court. Riggs was then convicted of theft.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Cassation? Why or why not?
·         If you were a shopkeeper and a poor person stole from your store, what would you do? Why?

Discussion B

·         Do you think poverty and homelessness in your country are getting worse? Why or why not?
·         What programs can the government establish to help poor or homeless people? 

June 26, 2016