Judges rule that stealing water “through necessity” is not a crime

In a landmark ruling, a man condemned to pay a €630 fine for ‘stealing’ a cubic metre of water (valued at €2.67) has seen the case thrown out. Porto appeal court judges ruled that access to water is inherent to human dignity and “a necessity for physical survival”.

The man had rigged a direct connection from the mains, which he and his family used for just three days.

The ‘crime’ took place after the family’s landlord removed their water meter, due to non-payment of bills, reports Correio da Manhã.

It has not been explained how long it took to see this case through two courts, but the story emerged on the same day that Reuters reported on “almost 900,000 disputes over unpaid bills, mortgages and bad loans” being held up in the country’s judiciary.

A Sintra judge told the news agency that “most of the cases end with zero debt recovery” after months, if not years, of agonisingly slow progress through the system.

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