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The surprising firework laws that could land you a huge fine or even jail time

Legal experts at The University of Law explain the dos and don’ts of using fireworks.

Ahead of Diwali and Bonfire Night, experts at The University of Law have cleared up the dos and don’ts of safe and legal firework celebrations, including one surprising law that could lead to an unlimited fine or even six months in prison.

Laws and traditions around the use of fireworks in the UK go back as far as 1606, one year after Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament. This is when the Joyful Day of Deliverance Act was passed, ordering people to attend church on the 5th November for thanksgiving prayers, as well as justifying the continuation of laws against Catholic worship.

Many bonfire night traditions have remained to this day, although laws around the use of fireworks have developed significantly over time. Here, experts at The University of Law clear up some common and lesser-known laws when it comes to pyrotechnics.

Using sparklers in public – on the spot fines and even jail time

Most people will know that setting off fireworks in public is of course a criminal offence, however, it’s a lesser-known fact that this law also extends to the use of sparklers.

These handheld pyrotechnics are a category F1 firework, which means they “present a very low hazard and negligible noise level and which are intended for use in confined areas”[i]. Despite this low level of risk, the law says that you must not set off or throw fireworks, including sparklers, in public places. Doing so could land you an on the spot fine of £90, you could be fined an unlimited amount or even face up to six months in jail[ii].

Firework curfews

While recent research has found the majority of the British public enjoy firework displays (61%), many prefer public displays as opposed to private, with 55% saying private displays are disruptive to the community[iii]. For pet owners, this will be a particularly relevant point, with many worrying about the effects loud displays have on their furry friends.

There are strict laws in place around when you are allowed to use fireworks in the UK, although it’s perhaps later than you might think. Most of the time, you must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. However, on Bonfire Night this extends to midnight and during Diwali night, New Year and Chinese New Year it extends to 1am[iv].

Buying and storing fireworks

You can only legally buy fireworks from licensed sellers from 15th October to 10th November, 26th December to 31st December, or three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year. Outside of these times you must purchase from a licensed fireworks shop.

With that in mind, it might be tempting to stock up on fireworks when they go on sale on the highstreet, but beware of the guidelines and laws around storage.

For hazard type four fireworks, which includes many of the classics we’d use at home, you can keep up to 50 kg (net) for no longer than 21 days without the need for a licence, provided that these are not for sale or for use at work. Laws differ depending on the hazard type and intended use, so be sure to check these as you may need a license from your local authority.

Experts at The University of Law said: “Firework celebrations are enjoyed by many, and with the right research and preparation they needn’t be a problem for anyone. It can sometimes be tempting to get carried away with the celebrations, but it’s important to remember the laws are in place to keep people safe and those who are caught out could face some serious consequences.”

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