How late can you let off fireworks? Who can buy them, where can you set them off and what the UK law says

The new year is just a few hours away and you don’t want to fall foul of the law

Fireworks will soon be lighting up the skies across the country as the country welcomes in 2023.

It is New Year’s Eve and many people will soon be celebrating. London’s spectacular display will welcome crowds for the first time since 2019, while Hogmanay celebrations have returned to Scotland.

If you are thinking of setting off fireworks this weekend, you might be wondering how late you can set them off. There is also a question of where you can buy fireworks. Sainsbury’s have said they will continue to ban the sale of fireworks, three years after the ban was first introduced in 2019.

If you are thinking of picking up your own fireworks for New Year’s Eve, there are a number of laws you need to be aware of to avoid landing yourself in trouble. Here is all you need to know:

How late can you set off fireworks?

For the vast majority of the year, the law states that you cannot set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. There are however exceptions in place for Bonfire Night.

On Guy Fawkes Night (5 November), you are allowed to let fireworks off until midnight - so you get an extra hour. The law also says that you can set fireworks off until 1am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year.

Where are you allowed to set fireworks off?

The Government’s website states that you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places. This includes: highways, thoroughfare or public spaces.

Fireworks can only be used in public places in the event of a licensed event, such as a fireworks display. The event has to be organised by licensed professionals.

If you are caught using fireworks illegally you can be fined an unlimited amount and imprisoned for up to six months. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.

Fireworks display. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)Fireworks display. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Fireworks display. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Who can buy fireworks?

There is an age limit in place for the purchase of “adult” fireworks. The government defines these as category two and three fireworks, you need to be 18 and older to buy and use these types of fireworks.

The firework types are:

  • category one: ‘Throwdown fireworks’ including firecrackers, bangers and party poppers
  • categories two and three: ‘Adult fireworks’ available in shops - including rockets
  • category four: Professional display fireworks available from specialist suppliers

The law states that anyone over 18 can buy, carry or use category one, two and three fireworks. If you are over the age of 16, you can only buy, carry or use category one fireworks.

Christmas crackers are also covered by firework laws and you need to be over the age of 12 to purchase them. The popular festive table decoration contain strips of card which have been treated with gunpowder, causing them to go bang when pulled.

The only people who are allowed to buy, carry and use category 4 fireworks are licensed professionals.

Under the laws, 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

If you want to purchase fireworks outside of these windows, you can only buy them from licensed shops. Illegally selling fireworks could result in an unlimited amount and imprisoned for up to six months.