Legal risks of private fireworks

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Private firework party organisers are being warned about the legal responsibilities and risks that garden displays entail, ahead of Bonfire Night on Saturday.

Large public displays have grown in number and popularity, partly because they are safer and offer more ‘bang for your buck’, but many people still prefer the DIY approach and are unaware of the stiff penalties that could be handed out to amateur pyrotechnicians who breach the 2004 Fireworks Regulations.

ARAG Legal Services, a leading provider of legal advice and protection, has highlighted the legislation and risks that need to be considered when putting on a private display.

Head of Underwriting & Marketing, David Haynes, said: “Safety should be top of everyone’s list on Bonfire Night but there are also legal responsibilities to consider, and the two often go hand-in-hand. The legislation wasn’t put in place to put people off hosting private displays, just to make them as safe and neighbourly as possible.”

The checklist for anyone planning garden displays this weekend is: keep it at home - it has been illegal to set off fireworks “in or into any highway, street, thoroughfare or public place” since the Explosives Act of 1875; adults only - possession of category 2 (garden) and category 3 (display) fireworks in a public place by anyone under the age of 18 is also an offence; no pro, no show - only pyrotechnics professionals are legally allowed to buy or possess category 4 (public display) fireworks; observe the curfew - Private firework displays must normally end by 11pm but the curfew is extended to midnight on November 5.

The penalty for breaching the regulations is a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in prison. Such offences can also be dealt with through on-the-spot fines of £90.

Anyone hosting a private party or setting off fireworks could also face civil action if a guest is injured by a firework or the bonfire, for example.

David Haynes added: “Inviting a few friends to your garden display is a tradition for many families and it should still be perfectly straightforward to do that safely and legally. The law isn’t particularly complex, so private party organisers should be able to focus on having a good, safe party.”