A MAN arrested when police uncovered a cannabis growing operation in a terraced house, near a town centre, is the subject of inquiries into whether or not he is the victim of trafficking.

The 21-year-old man, of Albanian extraction, was detained when police, armed with a search warrant, visited the property in Spennymoor, on January 20.

Officers recovered 108 cannabis plants in various stages of maturity from the address in Craddock Street.

Police estimated they had a potential sale value of £90,000 in terms of street sale prices.

The arrested man appeared at Durham Crown Court facing charges of producing a drug of class B and abstracting electricity,.

His counsel, Stephen Hamill, asked that the charges should not be put, yet, to the defendant, as he is subject of inquiries by the Home Office, under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), as to whether he is the victim of modern day slavery.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said the referral, made four days after the man’s arrest, could take up to 45 days to reach resolution, and the Home Office does not always meet that target time in all NRM cases.

Mr Hamill said his client has already been interviewed by agents of the Home Office as to whether or not he was forcibly placed at the address.

Recorder Jamie Hill QC said while a decision is awaited from the Home Office the case would be adjourned.

He remanded the defendant to remain in custody, pending a new hearing date on Thursday March 11.