THREE muggers, including one aged 12, have been jailed for their parts in a violent handbag snatch campaign.

During one attack, 78-year-old Ethel Newton was badly bruised after she was dragged down an embankment when she refused to let go of her bag.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that last November she had been waiting for a bus in York Avenue, Jarrow, when the gang, who cannot be named for legal reasons, approached her.

As one of them grabbed at her bag, Mrs Newton held on.

Prosecutor Robert Woodcock said: "She was dragged for about five or ten seconds and collided with a tree, at which point he let go and ran off."

Fifteen minutes later, a second woman, June Clark, 50, was in Elmfield Road, Hebburn, when another youth grabbed her bag, containing more than £400.

Three local youths, seeing what had happened, chased and caught the gang, who admitted the attacks.

One, who was aged 14 at the time, admitted a further robbery, when 77-year-old Leah Docherty lost £50 in cash and possessions when her bag was snatched in Hebburn. She has since said she is too afraid to go out alone, the court heard.

Defence barristers told the court that the boys were "deeply ashamed and sorry".

The three admitted charges of robbery and attempted robbery. The 12-year-old was sentenced to ten months detention and a training order. The 14-year-old and a 15-year-old were each sentenced to 12 months in a young offenders institution.