Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Crackdown on firework lawbreakers

Crackdown on firework lawbreakers

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (2008/242) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 24 October 2008

In the run up to Bonfire Night the Government is targeting the small minority of irresponsible businesses who flout the law by selling fireworks to under 18s.

Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas said:

"Fireworks can do terrible damage in the wrong hands. Retailers and parents must take their responsibilities seriously.

"Our tough laws mean firework sellers who break the law face stiff fines or even prison.

"They must follow the rules and parents should take essential safety precautions so that everyone stays safe and has a great time on bonfire night."

If fireworks do get into the wrong hands the police have strong powers to tackle anti-social behaviour. Anyone over the age of 10 caught misbehaving with fireworks can be given a fixed penalty notice.

Earlier this month Home Office published "Tackling Firework Misuse - A practitioner's guide", which illustrates the powers available to local authorities and police. These include Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and penalty notices for disorder, which can be used to tackle the small minority of people who misuse fireworks.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said:

"Fireworks can be fun, but if misused they can also be a nuisance. We have provided a wide range of tools and powers to tackle anti-social behaviour associated with fireworks going off late at night, or even being deliberately used to cause harm and distress. I want local agencies to make full use these tools to tackle nuisance behaviour in their areas for the benefit of the law-abiding majority."

Tough firework laws mean:

* It is illegal to sell fireworks to under 18s, or for under 18s to possess fireworks in a public place;

* Fireworks that exceed 120 decibels cannot be sold to the general public; and

* Outside specific seasonal periods it is an offence to supply fireworks without a licence.

Across the UK, trading standards teams are targeting those retailers who are suspected of selling fireworks to underage buyers.

Trading Standards Institute chief executive Ron Gainsford said:

"We want to make sure that people can enjoy the bonfire season safely.

"Trading standards professionals around the country will be taking action to make sure that fireworks are not sold to under 18s and that retailers are complying with safe storage requirements.

"In particular, we are concerned about unscrupulous traders who sell fireworks from illegal premises such as vans, pub car parks and market stalls."

Anyone buying and setting off their own fireworks in a display for family and friends should check the Firework Code first, or risk putting themselves or their loved ones in danger.

Notes to Editors

1. Members of the public injured by fireworks may be available for interview - please contact BERR press office on 0207 215 5976 for more information.

2. Anyone buying or setting off fireworks should first check the Firework Code:

* Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
* Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
* Keep fireworks in a closed box
* Follow the instructions on each firework
* Light at arm's length, using a taper
* Stand well back
* Never go near a firework that has been lit. Even if it hasn't gone off, it could still explode
* Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
* Always supervise children around fireworks
* Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
* Never give sparklers to a child under five
* Keep pets indoors

3. "Tackling Fireworks Misuse - A practitioner's guide" is on the web at

4. Anyone with information about suspicious activity involving fireworks should report it immediately to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

5. For more information on firework safety from the Department for Business, visit

6. In one example of trading standards action, all registered firework sellers in Dundee will face undercover purchasing by young volunteers in a bid to tackle underage sales.

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