CONCERN has been raised that a young man from Cambridgeshire who was caught stealing alcohol worth more than £800 at a Wrexham supermarket was the victim of modern slavery.

But Christian Batacu, 25, had refused to comment when questioned by the police about whether he had been forced into carrying out the thefts from Morrisons.

Batacu appeared from custody at North East Wales Magistrates Court at Mold on Saturday where he admitted the theft two days earlier.

Batacu, who had committed a similar offence in the West Country previously, received a 12 week prison sentence suspended for a year.

Magistrates said it was a serious offence committed in circumstances for which he had not given a plausible explanation.

He had travelled from Peterborough to Wrexham, saying he had financial difficulties.

Magistrates said they believed there had been a significant degree of planning tht thefts.

Mairead Neeson, prosecuting, said Batacu was stopped by security staff after he placed towels over bottles of alcohol in the trolley and left without paying.

He provided police with a prepared statement in which he said: "I admit taking the items from Morrisons. I am having financial difficulties at the moment. I am sorry."

Batacu told police he had travelled alone to Wrexham. He had no connections with the town.

He was asked why he had specifically targeted Wrexham, if anyone had forced him to do it, or if he had been coersed into it, but he replied no comment.

Last year he had travelled from his then home in Coventry to Bath where he stole in similar circumstances.

Solicitor Stephen Edwards, defending, said his client, who followed the proceedings with the aid of a Romanian interpreter, was vulnerable and did not appear to be a professional criminal.

He was an orphan who moved to the UK for work purposes 18 months ago.

Batacu had no family and his only support was within the Romanian community in the UK.

He had worked in factories but his contract came to an end and he had financial difficulties.

Mr Edwards said he had asked the defendant similar questions to those put by the police, whether he had been forced into it or had been driven to Wrexham by others.

"I was concerned to see whether or not there was any indication that he was the victim of modern slavery.

"People can be coersed into committing criminal offences by the actions of others."

Mr Edwards said there was a protocol to follow in such cases.

"Regrettably I have to report to you that I have had firm instructions from this young man that he does not wish to complain or make any suggestion that he is the victim of modern slavery.

"But I ask you to look at the overall circumstances of this case in deciding where the truth lies.

"Sadly, some people who are coersed into offences can be scared and frightened before the court for obvious reasons."