Published Wednesday, 18 April 2012
The PSNI said it is taking the incident "extremely seriously". (© UTV)
The PSNI has launched an internal investigation following the incident during a planned search of a Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) member's family home in the Ardoyne area of the city on Tuesday.
The man, an election agent for the party, was arrested prior to the raid on his home.
A police spokesperson said: "After the search an item of officer's personal equipment, a gun belt which included a firearm, was discovered missing."
It is understood the gun was left on the nine-year-old girl's bed for around 20 minutes, until police returned to the house to pick up the gun.
No children were in the house while the search was carried out.
"Police are treating the temporary loss of this equipment extremely seriously and have commenced an internal disciplinary investigation into the circumstances of the incident," added the PSNI spokesperson.
IRSP member Paul Little was called to the house by the family while the search was underway and was there when the officer returned to look for the weapon.
He told UTV that shortly after the PSNI completed the raid and left, he received a call from them to say they had "left some kit behind."
Mr Little said they refused to say what the items were.
He said that when the officers returned to the house the missing objects were revealed to be "a full gun belt, loaded pistol, ammunition and CS gas" lying on a child's bed.
"I was stunned," he said, before adding that the children were due back to the house shortly after the discovery was made.
He said the police "just wanted to get out of the house as quickly as possible."
"This weapon was recklessly abandoned in someone's house, a civilian's house, and potentially someone could have been injured with it."
Ross Hussey, Ulster Unionist Policing Board Member, said he will be asking the Chief Constable to keep the board up to date with the investigation.
"While I understand that house raids are extremely intense, it is unacceptable that an officer has left has been so careless with his firearm and ammunition.
"Given that the raid the officer had taken part in was part of an investigation into dissident republican activity, it makes such carelessness all the more unsettling," he said.
Sinn Féin policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly said the consequences of leaving a gun in a child's bedroom "could have been disastrous".
"I welcome the fact that there will be an inquiry into this incident and questions answered.
"The inquiry should be short and sharp with actions resulting so the public are reassured that an incident like this will not happen again."
© UTV News