Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a one-year prison sentence for a 16-year-old boy who was charged with theft after stealing 2 kilograms of meat from a supermarket. The verdict reflects the softened approach of Turkish courts to petty crimes committed by children, who were once heavily punished.
Three teenagers including the accused, identified only as P., shoplifted 2 kilograms of meat in the eastern province of Malatya before they were caught by the supermarket's security guards. The local court handed down a one-year prison sentence for the underage suspect after the prosecutor pleaded for his incarceration as he "had criminal tendencies and stole a valuable amount of meat," which was worth TL 27 ($11.42).
The high school dropout who lives with his stepfather told the court he did not have any money and food was scarce when he decided to shoplift some meat to cook with his friends. The lawyer for the underage suspect appealed the court's verdict and took the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The court, the highest judiciary authority in the country, ordered the lower court to either commute the sentence or annul it entirely on the grounds that the stolen amount was not high enough and the boy did not have an existing criminal record. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the boy stole only the meat while there were other goods he and his friends could have stolen. Moreover, the child's background, such as living without a steady income and coming from a broken home, was ignored when the prison term was handed down to him.
In 1997, three boys were sentenced to six years in prison for breaking into a pastry shop where they stole a small amount of baklava, a local dessert, causing public outrage over the severity of the prison term. The boys were released by a pardon 19 months later, and the sentence led to a criticism of the imbalanced sentencing system in the country where adult suspects used to get away with lenient sentences even for serious crimes such as rape.