Secret Shame of Women and Children in Our Midst; Today the Gazette Can Reveal Details about the Hidden Sex Offenders Who Live in Our Communities. They Are the Women and Children Who Have Been Charged with Vile Sex Crimes, Shattering the Myth That Only Men Are Perpetrators. EXCLUSIVE

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Byline: SAM BEATTIE reports.

MORE than 20 children, some as young as 11, were charged with raping and sexually abusing other kids on Teesside between 2006 and 2008.

Three women, aged between 33 and 40, were also arrested for sex crimes.

The figures were discovered via a Freedom of Information request by the Gazette.

When 40-year-old Sharon Edwards, formerly of Elton Grove, Stockton, was hauled in front of Teesside Crown Court for having sex with a 14-year-old boy, Judge Peter Fox painted a picture of a "lonely housewife" who was seduced by the teenager.

Sparing her from prison, Judge Fox passed a 12 months suspended sentence, and provoked fury from the boy's family.

But last month Britain's top judge, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, ruled that sentence was "unduly lenient" and stressed the gender of the victim was irrelevant.

Edwards, a mum-of-two, is now serving the 12-month sentence behind bars.

About the same time as the Edwards' saga was unfolding, a 36-year-old woman was charged by Cleveland Police with indecently assaulting a male, and a 33-year-old woman was quizzed about sexual activity with a child. After admitting the offence she was cautioned by police and released.

The figures also reveal children were implicated in the most serious sex crimes - boys who hadn't even reached their 13th birthday were among those charged with rape.

Normally, the media faces rigid restrictions when reporting from youth courts, so building up a picture of sex crimes committed by under-16s is difficult.

But the investigation reveals Teesside's youngest hidden sex offenders and the results make grim reading, including 10 rapes committed by 11 to 15-year-olds from mid-2006 to last summer, and a 13-year-old charged with eight sex crimes against other kids. …