The Law and Fireworks
Fireworks are explosives and their misuse can lead to a number of problems. There are safety implications as the misuse of explosives can cause serious injury. Fireworks also create a lot of noise which can scare people, especially children and the elderly, and can be particularly traumatic for domestic pets, which may become aggressive or destructive when panicked. Laws are therefore in place to control their use.
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks in a public place. These regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks at night (11pm - 7am) in England and Wales, with extensions to the curfew for the following festivals:
- Until 01:00 on the night of the Chinese New Year
- Until 01:00 on the night of Diwali
- Until 01:00 on the night of New Years Eve
- Until Midnight on 5 November
These regulations are enforced by the police. There is a penalty of up to £5,000 or 6 months in prison for breach of curfew. The supply, purchase or possession of excessively loud fireworks over 120 decibels are also prohibited.
Sale of Fireworks - Enforced by Trading Standard.
Under the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 all fireworks for use by the public must meet British Standards BS 7114. Under these regulations, the sale of fireworks to under 18's is banned.
Since January 2005, sections 9 and 11 of the Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit the sale of fireworks to the public from unlicensed traders except for Chinese New Year and the preceding 3 days; Diwali and the preceding 3 days; 15 October to 10 November (Bonfire Night celebrations) and 26 - 31 December (for New Year celebrations). Traders will need to apply for a licence to supply fireworks year round.
Under the Control of Explosives Regulations 1991, it is an offence to keep fireworks (except those for private use) on premises that have not been registered for this purpose. Individuals can store fireworks for private use for up to 14 days, provided they are kept in a safe place.
The throwing or setting off of fireworks in a highway or street is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875. This is enforced by the police, with a fine of up to £5,000.
It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. A penalty of up to £5,000 and/or 6 months in prison is enforceable by the police, trading standards or RSPCA.