Eborn Legal Review Fireworks: the law. May the Fawkes be with you ! The ultimate guide to Guido

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Eborn Legal Review – edited by Andrew Eborn

Fireworks: the law May the Fawkes be with you !

From who can buy, when & what you can buy and when you can set them off – the ultimate guide to Guido

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring

Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!
Please to remember,
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.


The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was an assassination attempt against King James I by a group of English Catholics who had hoped for better treatment after 45 years of persecution under the reign of Elizabeth I.

Warwickshire-born Catholic Robert Catesby and his colleagues planned to kill King James 1, his ministers and several nobles by blowing up the Palace of Westminster during the State Opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605.
Robert Catesby, John and Christopher Wright, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham rented a house near the Palace of Westminster and smuggled in 36 barrels of gunpowder – around 2.5 tons – into a cellar.

Guy “Guido” Fawkes was the trigger man charged with setting and lighting the fuse to the gunpowder. Following an anonymous tip-off warning one peer to stay away, Fawkes was caught red-handed by the King’s men beneath the palace and was tortured for two days at the Tower of London until he gave up his co-conspirators.

Every year on 5th November the occasion is marked with fireworks and effigies of Guy Fawkes being burned on large fires

YOU’RE FIRED – THE LAW

When can you buy fireworks?

You can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on these dates:
15 October to 10 November
26 to 31 December
3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

At other times you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops.

Which fireworks can you buy?

Fireworks come in 4 categories:

Category 1 fireworks are low hazard fireworks. They pose the least danger, make very little noise and are for use in a limited space (including indoors). Examples include party poppers and Christmas crackers.
Category 2 and 3 are ‘adult fireworks’ and are available in shops and supermarkets. These will have Category F2 or F3 on the box.
Category 4 fireworks are banned for sale to the public and are for professional displays only. These are available at specialist suppliers.

When buying fireworks, always look for a CE mark to make sure they’re safe to use and only buy fireworks up to Category 3.

When can you set fireworks off?

It is against the law to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except:

November 5th (Bonfire Night), when the cut off is midnight

New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am

The law says you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places.

You can be fined an unlimited amount and imprisoned for up to 6 months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also receive an on-the-spot fine of £90.

In Scotland there is a new criminal offence which has come into force in October that punishes those buying fireworks for under-18s.  The penalty is up to six months imprisonment and a £5,000 fine for those who buy fireworks or other pyrotechnics for under-18s.

A separate law was also introduced that aims to protect Scotland’s first responders. Attacks using fireworks on emergency workers will become aggravating factors that can be taken into account when courts sentence offenders.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 provides that using fireworks illegally could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The Fireworks (Scotland) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2021 updated the rules to restrict when fireworks can be bought (7am to 6pm), and the quantity (5kg). Scots will only be able to buy F2 and F3 category fireworks, with F4 pyrotechnics only being available for firework professionals.

There are separate laws which could also impact people on Bonfire Night, for example, setting fireworks off while too close to a dog may be in breach of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 which states that it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to a captive or domestic animal. The offence carries a fine of up to £20,000 and/or six months in prison.

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