ROME, December 18, 2013 ( – An Italian high court has dismissed the sentence in a case of pedophilia on the grounds that there was “romance” involved between the 60 year-old social services worker and the 11 year-old girl in his care.

Pietro Lamberti, who works for the social services department of Catanzaro in Calabria in the south, was found in bed with the girl, described as “disadvantaged” in the press, by local police who raided his house in June 2011. The Court of Cassation overturned a five-year sentence for a conviction of sexual violence against a minor.

Italy’s age of consent is 14 and rises to 16 when the older party is judged to be in a position of authority over the child.

The court ruled to overturn the sentence upon hearing claims that the girl was “in love” with the man and pursued him. The case must now return to the local court in Cantazaro for retrial. Police said they had gathered evidence from “hundreds” of wiretaps of telephone conversations.

The court heard that Lamberti had tried to dissuade the girl and refrain from consummating the relationship for fear of impregnating her. He reportedly told her, “This is a secret that we have to bring up to grave.”