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People using fireworks are reminded not to fall foul of tough laws governing their use in the run-up to this year's bonfire night.

It is now an offence to:

  • possess adult fireworks in a public place if under the age of 18;
  •  sell fireworks to under 18s;
  •  set fireworks off after 11 o'clock at night (except on certain dates);
  • supply unsafe fireworks that do not comply with the British Standard BS7114; and
  • possess a category four firework if you are not a fireworks professional.

Under the Explosives Act 1875, it is also an offence to let off fireworks in a public place.

The new laws were introduced in time for last year's bonfire night to tackle the anti-social use of fireworks.

Supplying unsafe fireworks and fireworks to under 18s carries a maximum penalty of 5000 and/or six months in prison.

The other laws are subject to a Penalty Notice for Disorder of 80.

The police also now have powers to stop and search young people suspected of carrying fireworks.

Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said:
"The message is: enjoy the fireworks season, but be safe and responsible. If you are under 18, it is illegal for you to buy
fireworks or possess them in public.

"If you are a parent, make sure your children aren't breaking the law."

In Merseyside, the police and fire service last year reported a 75% reduction in call-outs to firework related incidents as a direct
result of the DTI's new laws.

John Woodhead, chairman of the British Fireworks Association, said:
"Last fireworks season there was a huge reduction in anti-social behaviour in many neighbourhoods as a direct result of these new

"This reduction of incidents in communities around the country allows police forces to concentrate their resources on the small minority
that are responsible for any remaining anti-social behaviour.

"Responsible use of fireworks will keep accidents and anti-social behaviour to a minimum."

The 11pm curfew for letting off fireworks is extended to midnight on bonfire night.

For full details of the new laws, plus information on fireworks safety, see: www.dti.gov.uk/fireworks .

Position before Fireworks Act 2003
* illegal to sell fireworks to under 18s;
* all fireworks for sale to the general public must comply with the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 and British Standard (BS 7114);
* retailers need a licence to sell fireworks all year round, although their sale in a four week period around 5 November is not subject to licence requirements; and
* bangers, aerial shells, shells-in-mortar, aerial maroons, maroons-in-mortar and other fireworks of erratic flight are illegal.

Situation Now
* illegal for under 18s to have adult fireworks in public places;

* members of the public are banned from possessing 'category 4' professional fireworks, the largest most powerful type of fireworks
used for public displays;

* air bombs and mini rockets are prohibited from being supplied to the public;

* retailers have to actively check a customer's age if there is any doubt they are under 18, as is the case with cigarettes and alcohol;

* a national curfew banning the use of fireworks between 11pm and 7am, aside from a later start on 5 November (midnight), and 31
December, Chinese New Year and Diwali night (1am); and

* a noise limit of 120 decibels for category 3 fireworks, the largest and most powerful fireworks available to the public.

Laws that came into force in January 2005
* a new licensing system for those supplying fireworks all year  round whether retail or wholesale; and

* improved controls on the import of fireworks.

The three fireworks offences for which a Penalty Notice for Disorder can now be issued:
* Under 18 possession of an adult firework (any firework except for caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents,
throwdowns and sparklers) in a public place;

* possession of a category 4 firework (professional display firework) by any member of the public unless a fireworks professional; and

* use of an adult firework between the hours of 11pm and 7am (with the exception of 5 November, 31 December, Chinese New Year and Diwali).

 British Fireworks Association,  http://www.b-f-a.org/