Children as young as 10 years old were among hundreds of youngsters 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% 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.
Nine boys and one girl were arrested for suspected firearm offences in 2015 in Northern Ireland, 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. The PSNI released the figures as part of an investigative report by Press Association.
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.