PSNI arrested 10 children for firearms offences
Ten children were arrested for firearms offences in Northern Ireland last year, the PSNI has revealed.
The PSNI said nine boys and one girl were arrested for suspected firearm offences in 2015, compared with six boys in 2014 and seven boys and one girl in 2013.
Two boys aged 16 were charged between 2013 and January 2016.
One incident involved carrying an imitation firearm in a public place and the other related to possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, the force said.
Across the UK, the new figures have revealed that children as young as 10 years old were among hundreds of youngsters arrested for suspected gun crimes in the last three years.
More than 1,500 child arrests for alleged firearms offences were carried out by British police between 2013 and January 2016, with the number soaring by 20% last year, an investigation by the Press Association found.
Figures released by forces under the Freedom of Information Act showed there were 1,549 arrests of children for suspected crimes involving firearms, air weapons or imitation guns, including 506 charges brought by police.
Britain's biggest force, the Metropolitan Police, said 679 children were arrested for suspected firearms offences between 2013 and January 2016, including 30 children aged under 13.
A total of 212 children were charged with firearms offences in the same period, the force said.
Figures from 29 forces which provided the number of child arrests for suspected gun crimes each year showed the number rose from 423 in 2014 to 507 in 2015.
A National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman said: "Firearms offences in the UK still account for less than 0.2% of total recorded crime.
"These offences reflect a broad range of crimes which can include air weapons or even possession of a BB gun if used in criminal circumstances.
"Forces across the country and community safety partnerships are working together to prevent young people getting involved in gangs and firearms.
"This is a key piece of work for all agencies and communities in breaking the cycle of young people becoming involved in gangs and the associated criminality."
Merseyside Police said 73 children were arrested for suspected firearms offences between 2013 and 2015.
Fourteen boys were charged with crimes involving firearms. These crimes included robbery, possession of a firearm, possession of an air weapon in a public place, sending threats, wounding and false imprisonment.
West Midlands Police said 83 boys and one girl had been charged with firearms offences since 2013.
This included an 11-year-old boy in 2015, a 12-year-old boy in 2013 and eight boys aged 13.
Greater Manchester Police, which has investigated a string of gang-related shootings since Salford gangster Paul Massey was shot dead in July of last year, and Police Scotland, were among the various forces which did not provide any figures to the Press Association.