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Are Fireworks Banned in the UK?

A lot of people are wondering if fireworks are banned in the UK. While it’s possible that different cities have different laws around the regulation of fireworks, the London Metro Police service points out that fireworks are not allowed to be discharged between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. These rules, of course, imply that if you use the fireworks in a safe way, and not during sleeping hours, you should be fine and not worried about attracting unwanted attention from police.

However, the Metropolitan Police website has an entire section on “antisocial behaviour,” with a page dedicated to explaining the safe and legal use of fireworks in the UK. The police service recognizes that people can appreciate fireworks in their own way, either in their own yards or at public events featuring professional fireworks displays. But there are limits to that enjoyment, and they urge people to report any use of fireworks that could be considered “dangerous or threatening.” 

Firework laws can get complicated and can change depending on the local authority. The laws in Northern Ireland can be different in Wales or England. While the laws of the UK say that anyone can use fireworks between 7 am and 11 pm, there are exceptions for holidays including Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night), New Year’s Eve, the Indian celebration of Diwali, as well as Chinese New Year celebrations. On Bonfire night, people can set off fireworks from 7 am until midnight. On New Year’s Eve, Diwali, and Chinese New Year, the curfew is extended an hour later to 1 am. 

But not all fireworks are created equal, and some are much more dangerous than others. With that in mind, the Metropolitan Police explain the different rules for fireworks, which are broken up into four different categories. The first category are known as “throwdown fireworks,” and they include traditional firecrackers, as well as “bangers and party poppers.” The second and third categories are known as “adult fireworks,” or those sold in retail stores. The fourth category is reserved for explosives used in professional fireworks displays and can only be obtained from specialty suppliers. 

London Fire Service

According to the London Fire Service, people should only buy fireworks that have a “CE” mark, which is an indicator that they’re both safe and legal to purchase and use by members of the general public. The fire service points out that people are only allowed to buy fireworks up to category 3, and so-called “adult fireworks” will have the proper categories marked on the explosives’ packaging. Category one fireworks are the least dangerous and don’t make much noise and are even safe to use indoors, including sparklers and party poppers and Christmas crackers. 

The fire service also urges people to look for a “CE” mark to make sure the fireworks they’re buying are safe and legal to use, and also reminds people that they can only buy fireworks up to Category 3. The use of adult fireworks, of course, is limited to outdoor areas and they should only be set off in wide-open spaces with plenty of room for spectators and away from trees, bushes, hedges, or sheds and other buildings.  

Registered dealers of fireworks

The buying and selling of fireworks are also regulated in the UK, limited to only registered dealers on specific dates related to national holidays and certain cultural celebrations.  For Bonfire night celebrations, people can buy fireworks between October 15 and November 10. For New Year’s, their sale is limited to December 26 to December 31. Due to their changing dates every year, firework sales related to Diwali and Chinese New Year are limited to three days before the events. But fireworks can also be bought from specially licensed shops at other times as well, though the illegal use and sale of fireworks in the UK can carry “unlimited” fines, and up to six months in prison. Moreover, UK police are also allowed to issue 90-pound fines “on-the-spot” if you’re found illegally setting off fireworks, for example, on a public street. 

The UK amended its fireworks regulations in 2004, aiming to stamp out what it calls the “anti-social use of fireworks” by prohibiting public sales with exception of “licensed traders,” unless the sales fall within the date ranges listed above. In those cases, retailers without licences are allowed to sell fireworks for limited time spans. 

The Fireworks Regulations of 2004

Fireworks are regulated in the UK under The Fireworks Regulations of 2004 as well as the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations of 2015. According to the regulations, the first three categories of fireworks can be bought and carried and used by anyone over the age of 18. Category one fireworks can be bought and used by anyone over 16, while so-called Christmas crackers can be bought by anyone 12 or older. But professional fireworks that fall under the fourth category can only be bought and used by licensed professionals. 

Furthermore, regardless of what category they may fall under according to the UK fireworks regulations, people are prohibited from lighting off fireworks on a street or road or any public place unless it’s in the context of an “organized event” thrown by professionals with licences. Meanwhile, it’s also against the law in the UK to set off fireworks, even sparklers or small firecrackers under category one, around highways, streets, thoroughfares, or any public spaces. 

Undoubtedly, fireworks that end up in the wrong hands and used in an irresponsible and unsafe manner can cause all kinds of havoc, starting fires, blowing off hands and digits, or scaring or injuring animals. With the obvious safety risks in mind, the UK limits their use to private property unless they’re being set off by professionals with pyrotechnic expertise. 

The Metro Police urge people to report any stores that sell fireworks to underage people, and should any kids be in their area setting off fireworks and causing nuisance, the law enforcement agency advises residents to first ask the kids “politely to stop” since they might not even know it’s against the law. They also suggest talking to any minors’ parents and get them to intervene if some noisy neighbourhood children are causing a fiery ruckus with fireworks. 

Are fireworks banned in the UK conclusion

If you have other questions, we recommend looking at the gov.uk website, where you can learn more about firework safety laws. Below are some additional things that you can think about:

  • Do you need a special license for a professional display?
  • Do not throw fireworks at people unless you want to get a prison sentence
  • Talk to a lawyer about the Fireworks Regulations 2004
  • Make sure you buy fireworks from registered sellers
  • Indoor fireworks often require a special fireworks licence
  • Will laws change depending on the time of the year? Will rules on Halloween be different than on November 5th?

In conclusion, if you buy fireworks from supermarkets, and use them for private use in your own garden, you should be fine! Have fun and be safe! Go shoot off those mini-rockets!

Alistair Vigier is a lawyer and the CEO of  www.ClearWaylaw.com, an online legal directory and website from which the public is able to select lawyers and provide reviews of their performance.

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