Fireworks: The Law and How To Report

The Law

Under the Firework Regulations 2004, it is an offence to:

  • possess adult fireworks (all fireworks except category 1 fireworks – party poppers, sparklers, throwdowns etc) in a public place by anyone under the age of 18;
  • possess category 4 fireworks (professional display fireworks) by anyone other than a fireworks professional;
  • it is illegal to supply adult fireworks to those under 18;
  • throw or cast or fire any firework in or into any highway, street, thoroughfare or public space (this would include throwing or firing from a private place into a public place, street, highway etc);
  • to light any fire or discharge any firearm or firework (without lawful authority or excuse) within 50 feet of the centre of a highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway, and as a consequence the highway is damaged.

There is a curfew on the use of adult fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on:

  • Bonfire Night (when the curfew is between 12 midnight and 7am);
  • New Years Eve (when the curfew is between 1am and 7am);
  • Chinese New Year (when the curfew is between 1am and 7am);
  • Diwali Night (when the curfew is between 1am and 7am).

You can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90

Buying 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 (Licence information)

How To Report

It is illegal to use fireworks in a public space or outside the curfew or by anyone below 18 years old

What to do if someone is using fireworks illegally:

Please make sure you report all illegal firework use to the police. Without this information Government has no data to prove there is a problem.

Phone: Report to the police on 101. Ask them to log it and provide you with an incident number.

Online Reporting is now available for over 60% of forces. This will roll out nationwide if successful so please use it (see below for guide on how to report):

You need to:

  • Click REPORT
  • Answer 5 questions YES or NO
  • Enter address or click on map
  • Click YES
  • Answer next question then you will be taken to online form to report
  • Scroll down page and click START

The above all use a standardised reporting format but if your local force isn’t listed it’s still worth checking if you can report online as some others have their own system

Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or go online at

Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal. Government advice is – Fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields or close to buildings housing livestock. Anyone planning a firework display in a rural area should warn neighbouring farmers in advance.

Section 4 of the AWA 2006 says ……

(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer,
(b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,
(c) the animal is a protected animal, and
(d) the suffering is unnecessary.

If the fireworks are near a road you can also contact the Highways division of your council and quote the following Source: Explosives Act 1875 Section 161

The offence carries a fine of up to £20,000 and/or a prison term of up to six months. The Act is enforced by local councils, animal health officers and the police.

What you can do:

Advice from a retired Police Woman:

  1. Film and record the fireworks, be sure that you can prove where they are being set off (ideally you need an address). Keep hold of flyers for organised displays etc.
  2. Record your pets/horses’ reactions to the fireworks whether it’s running around in a panic, sweating profusely, injuries, damage such as doors kicked off their hinges.
  3. Call the vet out. The animals need to be seen at their worst not 12 hours later when you have washed the sweat off and cleaned up the stable full of runny poo! Yes it might cost you a few £££ but unless the animals have been seen by someone qualified AND they say that unnecessary suffering has been caused, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Ensure they take notes – as much detail as possible because it may be required for a statement later on.

Having got all that you can then go to the police. Make sure they give you an incident number, without which the data is not collected and never reaches government figures.

You can also report all problems regarding animals and fireworks to the RSPCA (click here) or telephone: 0300 1234 999 and/or the BHS (click here) if a horse is involved. The British Horse Society also have an app – Horse i – where all incidents involving horses can be reported quickly and easily. You will receive a confirmation email with a case number for every report.

Small Claims Court

If the police are not interested with all that evidence then another avenue is the Small Claims Court if the claim is under £5,000.

We have found out that the Small Claims Court may be used in firework cases. I haven’t discovered any as yet but I believe it may be done. Animals are considered property in law. That is one reason the punishment does not seem to fit the crime when they are stolen. It is considered the same as someone stealing your phone. BUT this is a good thing.

If someone damages your property you can go to the SMC and ask that they pay. Damage to your dog could be, veterinary costs for a firework incident. Say if your neighbours fireworks hit the dog. If your horse has an accident because someone let fireworks off near your field (especially after you have informed them what the consequences may be) and your horse is devalued because of it, you would have a claim.

As I said I don’t know if this has been attempted or not yet. If anyone does try it please let us know. The SMC is a very easy and cheap process. It is not at all intimidating, I have used it myself when someone refused to pay for a horse. The downside with it is that if the perpetrator has no money you will get none. The upside is that this is all grist to the mill for the campaign and you would wonder at how many claims it would take before someone higher up the food chain takes notice.

Please contact us if you are thinking of doing this, we will support you as much as we can.

Noise Nuisance

Contact your local authority via their website. It may be under noise nuisance or anti social behaviour.

Illegal Sales & Storage

Illegal sales and storage of fireworks should be reported to Trading Standards