Concerns have been raised about use of the Terrorism Act to arrest a 15-year-old boy in connection with alleged explosives and firearms offences in Derry.

The boy and a 17-year-old girl were detained during a police operation in the city yesterday morning.

Police said they were arrested under the Terrorism Act in connection with “dissident republican activity”.

The boy was detained at a house in the Cable Street area by officers from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch.

They can be held for an initial 14 days before an application is made to the British home secretary for an additional detention period of up to 28 days.

Both teenagers have been taken to Antrim police station for questioning.

It is understood that police want to speak to the 15-year-old boy about explosives and firearms offences relating to an incident in the Foyle Road area Derry on August 2.

During the incident three men and a 16-year-old boy were arrested when a car was stopped during a police operation.

Two men, Tony Taylor (44), a former republican prisoner and a member of the Republican Network for Unity and Mark Kerr (24), both from Derry, were later charged with possessing a.22 Remington rifle with intent to endanger life.

The remaining suspects were released without charge.

Last night a solicitor acting for the 17-year-old girl said he was concerned that children were being arrested under legislation that allowed them to be held for days without charge.

“This legislation should only be used as a last resort,” Michael Madden of Madden and Finucane Solicitors said.

“If it was any other legislation she could have come in as a voluntary attender. But under this legislation they could keep her for weeks.”

While during the Troubles it was not unusual for teenagers to be arrested in connection with paramilitary activity there have been very few incidents of hard-hitting legislation being used against young people in recent years.

The Terrorism Act has come in for criticism from human rights groups in the past.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice last night said it was concerned by the use of the Terrorism Act.

“The arrest of children under the Terrorism Act is a major cause for concern,” director Mike Ritchie said.

“The fact that young people can be held away from their homes and families for up to 14 days could potentially be stressful and upsetting for the child.

“It should be remembered that in all circumstances, the best interests of the child should be paramount.”

A PSNI spokesman declined to comment last night.