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Pyrotechnic articles and qualifying music festivals – new legislation

If you are going to Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds or any other festival this summer, please take note!  Because of changes in the law you need to leave your pyrotechnic articles at home!

pyrotechnic articles music festivals qualifying events

Flares banned at festivals

Music festivals are following in the footsteps of football matches as a new law took effect from 3 April 2017.  This banned the use of pyrotechnics at music festivals.  Section 134 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 states that anyone caught with a “pyrotechnic article” at a “qualifying musical event” in England or Wales could face up to three months in prison and/or a fine.

While many believe that pyrotechnics and flares contribute to the atmosphere of an event, it is difficult to argue with how dangerous they are, particularly in a crowd. The law follows considerable public demand in 2016 because of anecdotes of serious burns and panic attacks brought on by smoke.

The background can be found here.

The risk at festivals such as Glastonbury is obvious because of the amount of heat and smoke that it gave off. From a distance they may look spectacular but it could only be a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured. The law is moving to prevent that because of this.

Pyrotechnic Articles

This is defined as “an article that contains explosive substances, or an explosive mixture of substances, designed to produce heat, light, sound, gas or smoke, or a combination of such effects, through self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions.”  It does not includes matches.  It was, however, specifically designed to include flares, fireworks and smoke bombs.

 Qualifying Music Festival

This is a music festival licensed under the Licencing Act 2003 so if in doubt you can safely assume that all major festivals are included.

There are no sentencing guidelines yet published for this offence because it is new legislation.  It should be noted however that the maximum sentence is identical to that for entering a football ground with a firework unders.2A of The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985. Offences under that legislation regularly attract custodial sentences and we should expect the courts to react in the same way for the new offence.

If you are not going to a festival or football match it is still legal to possess fireworks, as long as you are over 18.

Effective policing?

There is a difficulty in enforcing the law at a festival compared to a football ground. Police will struggle to enter a festival crowd, particularly near the front.  Also, the crowd isn’t monitored on CCTV as it is at football.  So most arrests for possessing pyrotechnic articles are likely to come at the festival gates, as with drugs.

Contact us for further advice

If you have any queries about the legislation or if you are accused of having pyrotechnic articles at a qualifying event please contact one of our expert criminal law solicitors at your nearest office.   Details can be found here.

Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.