Bonfire Night: What laws are there around fireworks?

The supply of fireworks to under 18s is set to be made a criminal offence in Scotland (Danny Lawson/PA)
The supply of fireworks to under 18s is set to be made a criminal offence in Scotland (Danny Lawson/PA)

October has not been easy on the ears, with the long nights making more time for fireworks celebrations.

From Diwali to Halloween – and now the annual commemoration of the failed gunpowder plot on bonfire night, the festivals should learn from Guy Fawkes and err on the right side of explosive.

Limits set by the law, local police and fire services are not to spoil the fun but keep residents safe on these fiery nights.

Here’s the dos and don’ts when it comes to buying and using fireworks this winter:

Who can buy and sell fireworks?

Adult fireworks – really anything above a party popper or sparkler – are only sold to those aged 18 and above.

Products are arranged into categories: one includes ‘throwdown’ fireworks like firecrackers, bangers and party poppers; two and three include ‘adult fireworks’; and four includes professional display fireworks from specialist suppliers.

The Fireworks Regulations Act 2004 forbids under 18s from purchasing, carrying or using category four fireworks, while they can use those in categories one, two and three.

Category one fireworks cannot be bought by anyone under 16 years old, while Christmas crackers have a buying age of 12 years old.

Users are advised to only buy products with a CE mark of certification.

Shops must hold a license to sell firework products, but registered sellers can add this to the stocklist on particular dates including October 15 to November 10, December 26 to 31 and three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.

Unlicenced sellers can face immediate fines of £90, as well as later unlimited fines and up to 6 months in prison.

If a local retailer is selling these without a licence or to those under the age limit, they can be reported to the local Trading Standards committee. Children using these should also be made aware of the law.

When can I set off my fireworks?

The law states that fireworks cannot be set off between 11pm and 7am. This leaves 7am to 11pm free for backyard light shows, although many choose not to compete with the sun during daylight hours.

Bonfire night, which is celebrated on November 5, is one of the few exceptions to this rule with the cut-off extending to midnight.

New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year have longer deadlines for booming displays with 1am as the set limit.

Where can I use fireworks?

It is illegal to set off fireworks, including sparklers, in the street or public places.

You must use them in your own garden or land where you have gained permission.

Rules on beaches may differ, as some could be privately owned, however you must have permission from the landowner to fire on the privately owned portion.

It is also not recommended as fireworks could be mistakes for distress flares.

For a full list of regulations see the UK Firework Laws and Regulations page.