Bonfire Night, Fireworks and the Law 2018

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Bonfire Night, Fireworks and the Law 2018

On Bonfire Night, the night sky is brought alive by the simply divine explosions of colour and noise, but as always, in the background there is the very real risk that failing to deal with fireworks safely and responsibly can bring the unwanted attention of the police.

Any retailers considering supplying fireworks for the first time should ensure that they are sufficiently familiar with the complex rules that regulate the sale and possession of fireworks etc.

Contravention of the rules can result in substantial fines being imposed and/or a prison sentence.

Claire Tapper explains the law.

Four Classes of firework

There are four general classifications for fireworks:

Class 1: Indoor

Class 2: Garden

Class 3: Display

Class 4: Professional

Certain types of fireworks are banned entirely, such as mini-rockets, bangers, firecrackers, ‘jumping fireworks’ and air bombs. Other firework are subject to the local authority licensing regime, these are known as “adult fireworks”.

Importation of Fireworks

Importing fireworks is a criminal offence unless notice of the fact is given to HMRC (Her Majestys Revenue & Customs), and details including the name and address of the importor and the address where fireworks are to be kept.

Given the sizeable black market for illegal and unsafe imported fireworks, it is always wise only to purchase from established, recognised and legitimate retailers.

Restrictions on the sale of fireworks

All retailers must display specified signage warning that it is “illegal to sell fireworks to those under 18 years”. Retailers should have robust training procedures in place to ensure that store staff know how to recognise any under-age purchasers, and challenge purchasers as to their age in appropriate cases.

There are also licensing restrictions on the supply of adult fireworks.

Is it illegal to posses fireworks in public?

Did you know? It is an offence for a person under 18 years to possess most fireworks in a public place. There are limited exceptions for those employed in the business of firework displays and other relevant occupations.

The possession of category four fireworks is prohibited, save for those employed in the business of firework displays and other relevant occupations.

Night-time Restrictions on Fireworks

With certain exceptions, such as Bonfire Night, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year, the use of adult fireworks is not permitted during the hours of 11 pm – 7 am. However there are specific exemptions.

Noise Levels

Category 3 fireworks are restricted to a sound impulse sound pressure level of 120 decibels or less.It is an offence to supply any firework that contravenes this restriction, but also, you must also be aware that there may be other offences committed.

Public Order, Arson, Violent and Other Offences

Fireworks are dangerous incendiary devices and in the wrong hands can cause serious injury to individuals, animals and property. Many of these offences such as arson carry substantial criminal penalties including imprisonment.


Therefore whilst Bonfire Night is a time for fun and frivolity, if the law is not followed correctly, it can land the unwary in hot water with the police and courts.

Burton Copeland can advise on any aspect of criminal law, not just the importation, sale, possession and use fireworks, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Senior Chartered Legal Executive Claire Tapper – Burton Copeland

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