An Italian appeals court has annulled a five-year prison sentence for a 60-year-old paedophile after it judged his sexual abuse of an 11-year-old girl to be a “romantic relationship”.
According to local media reports, the Corte d'Apello in Catanzaro – a coastal city in the southern Italian province of Calabria – ruled that the pair were in a “real relationship” after the victim told prosecutors she was in love with her abuser.
According to the Italian news website TGCom24, the child is from a disadvantaged background and had been placed into the care of the man – who works for the local social services department.
It is alleged that his sexual abuse of the child was discovered when officers raided a seaside cottage and found the pair naked in bed.
The man was initially sentenced to five years in prison for sexual violence against a minor, as the age of consent in Italy is 14, raising to 16 when one of the participants is in a position of authority or care over the other.
Despite the clarity of this law, the Catanzaro court quashed the original sentence on the grounds of extenuating circumstances after the victim repeatedly told investigators that she loved the defendant.
Following the annulment, the case is due to be sent back to the Catanzaro court for a retrial.