A MAN had to flee his home town after he and his partner became the victims of an unscrupulous loan shark.

Blackburn magistrates heard a £300 loan became a nightmare for Martin Anthony Baines.

He and his partner were forced to hand over their bank cards and the user withdrew their benefits and gave them £20 each a week to live on.

David Leach, defending, said the dire situation was reported to police and an officer responded by sending a text message to the shark telling him to stop doing what he was doing and return the cards.

"That made matters worse," said Mr Leach.

"On three occasions the other man locked him in his cellar and detained him. He was too frightened to report that to the police."

Baines, 28, of Wellfield Road, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to theft of food and clothing worth £177 from Asda in Blackburn on March 2.

He was made subject to a community order for 12 months with 15 days rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to pay £85 costs.

Mr Leach said his client had never taken drugs or been a drinker.

He took up with his partner who had previously been a drug user and the beginning of his criminal record coincided with that.

"She relapsed into drugs and started going out to earn money as a sex worker," said Mr Leach.

"He didn't want her to do that and started committing shop thefts rather than her going out on the streets."

Mr Leach said Baines borrowed £300 from the loan shark who started to demand significant repayments.

"He had their bank cards for 12 months and took virtually all their money," said Mr Leach.

He said eventually the couple moved away from Colne and settled in Blackburn to get away from the problems.

"The theft was because they had absolutely no money," said Mr Leach. "He stole clothing for them to wear and food for them to eat. He is a vulnerable character who has had his share of problems."