Italian court: Not a crime to steal food if you're starving

In Italy it’s now acceptable to steal small amounts of food – but only if you have an empty stomach.

The nation's top appeals court on Monday overturned a conviction against a homeless Ukrainian man who stole $4.50 worth of cheese and hot dogs from an Italian supermarket because he was starving, the BBC reports.

The court ruled that because Roman Ostriakov was looking for something to eat at the Genoa store, the theft is not a crime.

"The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the seizure of merchandise took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of an immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of necessity," the court said in a statement.

Ostriakov was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to six months in jail and a $115 fine before the conviction was overturned.

A columnist in Turin newspaper La Stampa wrote Tuesday the high court's ruling "reminds everyone that in a civilized country not even the worst of men can die of hunger."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.