Ten children from Northern Ireland were among hundreds of youngsters across the UK arrested for suspected gun crimes in the last three years, new figures have revealed.
More than 1,500 child arrests for alleged firearm offences were carried out by police between 2013 and January 2016, with the number soaring by 20 per cent 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 - some as young as 10 - for suspected crimes involving firearms, air weapons or imitation guns, including 506 charges brought by police.
The brother of a fatal shooting victim said gangs were using children to carry guns to avoid detection. Ian Cameron Swanston, whose 20-year-old brother Dorrie was shot dead in Manchester in 1999, also believed some youngsters thought carrying guns gave them “status”.
Mr Swanston, who is a counsellor with the charity Mothers Against Violence, said: “The more guns within the community, the more likely it is we will see younger children getting access to them.
“For some it’s about status. Having a gun is seen as having power”.
The PSNI said nine boys and one girl were arrested for suspected firearm offences in 2015, compared with six boys in 2014. 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.