Fireworks, Alcohol and the Law this Autumn and Winter
When the clocks go back and the nights get longer, we start to look forward to a season of celebrations. Bonfire night, Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve and winter birthdays in-between all mean gatherings with friends, flowing alcohol, merriment and cheer.
It’s also a season of soaring arrest rates and disruption. Here are some of the most common questions searched online about the laws around alcohol and fireworks in the UK. Our team at DRN often help individuals who have been arrested by the Police or fined by Community Support Officers at this festive time of year due to misunderstanding the law. Learn more about the laws around public drinking and fireworks, and you’ll make sure you have a fun and crime-free Christmas.
Which fireworks are legal to buy?
The internet has made it much easier to buy fireworks, but unfortunately it has also made understanding which fireworks are restricted by law in the UK much harder. Legal restrictions can be unclear and making a mistake or purchasing the wrong types of fireworks in good faith can leave you as the consumer at risk of prosecution.
You can’t buy “adult” fireworks (such as those which need staking into the ground) if you’re under 18.
Notes about firework classes and safety:
- Adult fireworks are classed as category 2 and 3 fireworks.
- Category 1 fireworks are items such as party poppers and sparklers.
- Category 4 fireworks can only be used by professionals.
- The law says you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places.
- Category 1 (“indoor”) fireworks are for use in extremely restricted areas.
- Category 2 (“garden”) fireworks must be safely viewable from 5 metres away, and must scatter no debris beyond a 3-metre range.
- Category 3 (“display”) fireworks must be safely viewable from 25 metres away, and must scatter no debris beyond a 20-metre range.
When can I use fireworks?
It’s against the law for anyone to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on certain occasions which are set by law. These occasions are:
- Bonfire Night – Midnight cut-off
- New Year’s Eve – 1am cut-off
- Diwali – 1am cut-off
- Chinese New Year – 1am cut-off
It’s also a really good idea to check with your local council to find out about any rules specific to your local area for setting off fireworks. (These can be affected by local wildlife, for example.)
When can I buy fireworks?
There are very strict laws relating to when you can buy fireworks in England. It is also only legal as a non-professional to buy fireworks from registered sellers for private use.
The dates during you can legally buy fireworks are:
- The 15th October to the 10th November
- The 26th to 31st December
- Three days before Diwali
- Three days before Chinese New Year
At any other time, you may only buy fireworks from licensed shops. Purchasing fireworks from anywhere else is a criminal offence.
What are the penalties for using fireworks illegally?
If you buy, sell or use fireworks illegally, you can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.
Is is illegal to drink alcohol in the street in Lancashire?
Only people over 18 can drink in public, except in areas of towns where Public Space Protection Orders are in place. These protection orders are clearly signposted to the public – you’ll notice signs in areas like town centres, residential areas and main high streets that warn of fines for drinking alcohol in public.
If you are found to be drinking alcohol in restricted areas where Public Space Protection Orders are in place, you can be legally moved on by Police, have your drinks confiscated or even be dealt a fine.
What is the legal drinking and driving limit in England?
In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is either:
- 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
- 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath
- 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine.
It’s important to remember that driving the morning after a night of drinking can also put you at risk of being over the limit. Many individuals are arrested and fined each year for topping the legal limit the day after, simply because they were unaware that alcohol can take so long to leave the body.
The safest course of action is to avoid driving while there is any chance of alcohol being in your system. If you are unsure if you’re fit to drive the day after a night out, this helpful calculator from Confused.com can help you work out how safe you are to drive.
The whole DRN team wishes you an enjoyable Bonfire Night & Festive Season. No matter what your plans are, stay safe and be aware of the law so you can enjoy yourself to the fullest.