They are the female criminals that give the so-called 'fairer sex' a bad name.

Statistically men remain far more likely than women to find themselves before the courts.

Male offenders accounted for 74% of those prosecuted in the UK in 2017/18, the latest figures available.

But in recent months courts in the North East have seen a number of lawless women in the dock facing justice for some appalling crimes.

And today as we take a look at some of their cases, we ask a leading criminologist about the differences between male and female offenders, and the types of crime they commit.

Pamela Davies, who is a Professor of Criminology at Northumbria University, explained: "Men and women ‘specialise’ in different forms of offending.

"Men are engaged in more serious and violent offending and men’s violence and patterns to violent crime remain stubborn over time and across jurisdictions around the world.

"Crime types that women tend to commit (but much less so than men) are theft related categories of crime, including fraud and forgery, sex work related offending and drug related criminality.2

And Prof Davies believes the motivations behind the acts of female criminals are also very different, and women's offending can often be linked to the men in their lives, or their 'complex and chaotic' lives.

"Criminological theorising has tended to ignore women and theories around motivation have traditionally been based on what motivates men," she explained. Theorising (also dominated by men’s thinking) has been blind to gender but this means that men’s rationality/irrationality has pervaded.

"Feminist influenced thinking has impacted on the question of motivation and more nuanced understanding of motivations for men’s and women’s offending has developed.," she explained. "In broad terms women and men are variously pushed or pulled in to crime and offending and women’s offending is often inextricably entwined with men, as some of (these) case examples illustrate and, with further context others would no doubt also reveal contextual factors that show the women involved have complex and chaotic lives."

Here are some of the female criminals that have come before North East courts over recent months.

Danielle Whitlie:

This mum drove "spectacularly dangerously" on the A1 with a front wheel of her car missing.

Danielle Whitlie was spotted early in the morning driving a black Vauxhall Astra with no front passenger side wheel.

Sparks and smoke were flying as she broke the 50mph speed limit to overtake a lorry on the dual carriageway at Washington.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the vehicle was erratically veering across carriageways as she struggled to keep control of it.

Other motorists reported it to police and when officers pulled her over there was a half-drunk bottle of Gordon's pink gin on the passenger seat.

The 27-year-old of Fenton Walk, West Denton, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, which lasted around 20 minutes, and failing to provide a specimen.

She was sentenced to 12 months suspended for 12 months with a rehabilitation requirement and was banned from driving for 12 months.

Rachel Smith:

Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, who was banned from communicating with children after being caught with indecent images had forbidden Instagram chats with a 14-year-old girl.

The 56-year-old was subject to a sexual harm prevention order imposed in 2018 as part of her punishment for having child abuse images.

But when police went to check on her, an officer who examined her phone found messages between Smith and what turned out to be a child.

Although there was no sexual content from Smith, the teenager had told Smith she fancied her and asked to see what was under her shirt, which she refused to show.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Smith said she initially believed the girl was 18. She had been warned of her true age by a relative but continued to communicate with her.

Smith, of Brinkburn Street, East Howdon, near Wallsend, pleaded guilty to breaching the sexual harm prevention order and was sentenced to a three year community order in October.

Margaret Brand:

Margaret Bland, who has been given a suspended sentence for supplying amphetamine

Margaret Bland was spotted by an off-duty police officer supplying amphetamine from a car parked on a road in Team Valley, Gateshead.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the 49-year-old was on a suspended sentence at the time, which was imposed just three months earlier after she admitted possessing cannabis with intent.

Bland made off from the scene when she recognised the officer but was arrested nine days later when her home was searched and a stash of amphetamine was discovered in her wardrobe.

But Bland, of King Street, in Low Teams, Gateshead, avoided a stint behind bars after she admitted one count of supplying a class B drug and one of possessing it.

Judge Stephen Earl said it was because of the current coronavirus pandemic and the fact she had made significant positive steps in her life since the offence that she wasn’t going straight to prison.

In sentencing her in July, he said: “I will put you out of your misery now, I’m not sending you straight to prison today. The facts are fairly straightforward. You supplied this lady with amphetamine and she gave you up on the basis that she herself was arrested.

“What you then tried to do was say she was supplying you. That was never going to be believed as she had the drugs. That was a non-starter.

“Anybody who supplies drugs can expect to get a custodial sentence and you will be getting that but you won’t be getting sent straight to prison today.”

As well as the suspended sentence, Bland was ordered to do 241 hours of unpaid work.

Millie Todd:

Millie Todd

Teenager Millie Todd coughed in the face of a hospital consultant and shouted "coronavirus" after jumping into a river for a dare.

Todd had deliberately plunged into the River Wear, in Sunderland, in June and was taken to hospital to be checked over.

A court heard the 18-year-old restaurant worker became aggressive when she arrived at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and erupted in fury when told she would have to be kept in.

In August , Todd, , of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, was sentenced to two months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with 150 hours unpaid work, after admitting assault on an emergency worker.

Emma Corrigan:

Emma Corrigan

Neighbour from hell Emma Corrigan told her long-suffering neighbour "I will cut your eyes out and feed them to my cat" during a campaign of harassment that left her a "nervous wreck".

For almost a year, the 39-year-old cleaner made her neighbour's life a misery by regularly blasting music, slamming doors, stomping around and shouting abuse and threats at the woman and her partner in the flat above her.

During one of the shocking outbursts, which happened during lockdown, Corrigan warned the woman "you are not going to die of coronavirus, you are going to die from my kitchen knife".

Corrigan, of George Street in Birtley, Gateshead, admitted two charges of putting a person in fear of violent by harassment.

At Newcastle Crown Court in August she was sentenced 15 months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months, with rehabilitation requirements and a three year restraining order to keep her away from the couple.

Katie Shone:

Katie Shone

Banned driver Katie Shone stole her mum's car, dangerously overtook a police car then smashed into a Mini while trying to flee from officers.

Shone helped herself to her mother's Seat Leon while she was away on holiday and drove it in South Tyneside.

When she overtook a vehicle in Hebburn, she had no idea it was an unmarked police car, and officers illuminated it's blue lights for her to stop.

Instead of pulling over, she put her foot down, doing more than 60mph her a 40mph zone before going through a red light at a roundabout and smashing into a Mini Cooper.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the passenger of the Mini was left with broken teeth and damage to a stomach muscle as a result of the collision while the driver, Shone and her passenger were all taken to hospital.

The court heard it was only good fortune that meant no one was killed or seriously hurt.

Shone pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and having no insurance.

In July the 32-year-old, of Ryton Court, South Shields, who has 38 previous convictions, was sentenced to 14 months in prison suspended for two years with a two year driving ban.

Carol Dale:

Carol Dale, who has been jailed for drugs offences at Newcastle Crown Court
Carol Dale, who has been jailed for drugs offences at Newcastle Crown Court

Drug-dealing gran Carol Dale was caught with more than £35,000-worth of heroin and cocaine in her Newcastle home.

For the second time in two years, Dale was involved with a gang who flooded the North East with class A drugs from Liverpool.

A court heard that David Williams used his taxi to transport the illicit substances from Merseyside to Dale's house on Westfield Road, in Scotswood, before returning to the North West with cash.

Dale then prepared the heroin and crack cocaine for onward sale by using scales to weigh and separate them into smaller plastic bags.

The 56-year-old barmaid, who was given a suspended sentence for her involvement in the same county lines drug dealing just five months earlier, was visited by Williams on at least five occasions between July and October 2019 before police intercepted, prosecutors said.

Williams, 49, of Queens Drive, West Derby, in Liverpool, was also locked up after he admitted being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine and possession of criminal property.

Dale was jailed for seven years in Septemeber after she pleaded guilty to possessing heroin with intent to supply, possessing cocaine with intent to supply and possession of criminal property at Newcastle Crown Court.

Abigail Turnbull:

Abigail Turnbull, 28, was jailed after igniting an inferno at her home in Whitley Bay

This drink-fuelled arsonist put the lives of her neighbours at risk when she sparked a huge inferno at her home.

Abigail Turnbull, 28, ignited three separate fires at the property, on Wallridge Drive, in Holywell Village, near Seaton Delaval, in April, while she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The fires erupted into a massive blaze shortly after 4.30am and a young family nearby, awoken by the smoke alarm, were forced to evacuate their home after seeing the thick smoke.

When emergency services arrived they found Turnbull sat on the doorstep in a state of “confusion” at the blaze, which caused £20,000 worth of damage.

Turnbull pleaded guilty to arson being reckless to whether life would be endangered when she appeared at Newcastle Crown Court in May.

In August she was was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Michelle Gilley:

Cruel thief Michelle Gilley befriended two vulnerable men in their 70s before stealing cash from them in their own homes, a court heard.

She forced her way into a 73-year-old man’s home in the early hours of the morning despite being banned from going near his address.

The 41-year-old pretended to be a police officer before pushing past him and refusing to leave, later stealing money from his trouser pockets and a bag of coins.

Less than 24 hours later, Gilley went to another vulnerable man’s house and asked to stay - before taking money from his trousers.

In August Gilley was jailed for 10 months after admitting burglary, theft and assaulting a police officer.

Melain Brass:

Melain Brass

This mum threatened two social workers with an imitation firearm.

Melain Brass became angry and abusive when the pair turned up at her home.

A court heard she threatened to kill herself before going into another house and arming herself with two items, which in combination made up an imitation gun.

She ran towards one of the social workers with the items in her hand, leaving her "entirely terrified."

Brass, 43, who admitted possessing an imitation firearm. In August she was jailed for 15 months.

Emma Brown:

Emma Brown

Emma Brown was caught smuggling drugs and a mobile phone into prison.

She agreed to sneak the banned items into HMP Northumberland in return for a £250 debt she owed being wiped clean.

During a visit to an inmate she didn't know, he was spotted receiving a package from her while giving her a hug.

It was found to contain 26 buprenorphine tablets, 288 diazepam, a mobile phone and sim cards, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Brown, 32, of Pontdyke, in Felling, Gateshead, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to three offences of conveying banned items into prison.

She was jailed for six months.

Laura McGill and Teresa Reilly:

Laura McGill and Teresa Reilly were both jailed after robbing a woman at a cash point in Stanley

These women were jailed after they pushed over a pensioner at a cash point and stole her money.

Laura McGill, 36, and Teresa Reilly, 44, approached the elderly woman at an ATM in Stanley, in September.

As the victim was taking out her money, she was pushed over and McGill and Reilly took the cash.

The victim was taken to a nearby shop by passers-by while another member of the public gave chase.

They weren't caught but they were identified and later arrested.

McGill and Reilly, both of Standerton Terrace, in Stanley, County Durham, were jailed for 23 months each at Durham Crown Court in March.

Kayla Banton:

Kayla Banton

Predatory Kayla Banton tricked and fleeced an extremely vulnerable victim to bankroll her drug addiction.

Having previously targeted victims including a pensioner with Parkinson’s and a 78-year-old with dementia, she struck again - this time against a man with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.

After befriending the kind victim with the intention of exploiting him, Banton turned up at his house and brazenly wheeled his treasured valuables away in a trolley - ignoring his desperate protests.

A court heard she stole computer and TV equipment worth more than £400 and also helped herself to cash using his bank card in “abhorrent” and “callous” offences.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 48-year-old victim has mobility and communication problems and his finances are looked after by others.

On January 2, he was at Costa Coffee in Gateshead town centre, on his own, when despicable Banton approached him and introduced herself under a false name.

The victim thought she wanted to be his friend and he took out money at her request and gave it to her.

Days later Banton turned up at his home and went on to steal computer equipment and a television. And when she was recalled to prison she even wrote to him asking for money.

Following her release, the victim gave Banton his bank card and pin number for her to withdraw £100, which she promised to use to “pay off the loan shark she had sold the TV to.”

She disappeared with the card, took the money out but pocketed it and the man did not get his property back.

Banton, 32, previously of Arkle Street, Gateshead, still had the card two days later when she was arrested.

She admitted three counts of theft, was jailed for 18 months and given a restraining order.

Claire Laing:

Claire Laing

Shameful Claire Laing assaulted a heroic hospital nurse who put her life on the line to care for people on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The thug kicked the nurse in the thigh when she went to rouse her from sleeping in a treatment room where she was being assessed, at Sunderland Royal Hospital. The nurse had worked on the Covid ward and had previously contracted the virus herself.

A court heard 39-year-old Laing, who appeared drunk, threatened to “headbutt someone” then struck a police officer who attended, in the neck with her hand.

At Newcastle Crown Court Laing was locked up for four months after she admitted two charges of assaulting an emergency worker.

Newcastle Crown Court heard neither of the victims suffered injury in the attacks at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Marie Thompson:

Marie Thompson

Marie Thompson orchestrated a sickening attack on her ex partner during which he was stabbed, tied up, beaten and robbed during a terrifying raid which left him unconscious in a pool of blood and fearing death.

She told the man she would call to see him for a drink but while he was at the toilet she let two masked men in to attack him.

As the men, one of whom was her new partner, inflicted savage violence, including threatening to torture him and dousing him in alcohol to try to set him on fire, Thompson was "simply standing watching" her former lover suffer.

Newcastle Crown Court heard more than £7,000 in jewellery, including high value watches and chains, and cash was taken during the raid, as well as a cheque for £19,400, which was never cashed.

In text messages she sent before the attack, Thompson, 46, told a pal she "hoped he still had something to rob", "I dread to think what they are going to do to him" and "he deserves what was coming to him".

Thompson admitted conspiracy to rob on the basis she participated in the plan to rob, that would inevitably involve some violence being inflicted but the "extreme" nature of what happened went beyond what she had foreseen.

In August Thopson, 46, formerly of Newcastle but latterly of of St. Mark's Court, Rugby, Warwickshire.

She was sentenced to eight years behind bars.

So what should the justice system do to deal with female offenders like these.

Prof Davies says sentences and rehabilitation programmes should be influenced by gender.

"Gender-wise justice and gender-sensitive responses to women’s offending can work very effectively if tailored interventions are designed and interventions are timely," she said. "Women and men have different criminogenic needs. Offending women’s lives tend to often be chaotic, complex and dynamic.

"As some of the case example examples hint at, women are often in messy and often toxic violent relationships, in different states of motherhood and pretty desperate states of survival and deprivation.

"The great work of the women’s hubs in Newcastle and that of Changing Lives really tries to tackle some of the underlying and complex issues that see some women in trouble with the police."