It happened in Italy. Roman Ostriakov was given a six month jail term and a hundred Euro fine for stealing four Euros of food, cheese and sausages, from a Genoa supermarket. Why? He had no money and he had no food. He was famished (not in the sense we like to use that word).
Fortunately the sentence was appealed to the court of appeal where the panel quashed both verdict and sentence.
Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.
Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food "in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment", the court of cassation decided.
Therefore it was not a crime, it said.
For the judges, the "right to survival prevails over property", said an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian).
In times of economic hardship, the court of cassation's judgement "reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve".
An opinion piece in Corriere Della Sera says statistics suggest 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor in Italy every day - it was "unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality".
It criticised the fact that a case concerning the taking of goods worth under €5 went through three rounds in the courts before being thrown out.
The "historic" ruling is "right and pertinent", said Italiaglobale.it - and derives from a concept that "informed the Western world for centuries - it is called humanity".
"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," wrote the court.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the Ostriakov decision to be followed in other jurisdictions. While the defence of necessity is anchored in the Common Law, plenty of the hungry went to the gallows for a loaf of bread. Ask Charles Dickens. Today, of course, inmates have become commercial commodities in the evolving prison/industrial complex.