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Melbourne bouncy castle king jailed over arson attacks on rivals

A Melbourne bouncy castle operator has been jailed for up to 11 years after he hired arsonists to burn down his rivals’ premises. 

An Australian court heard that James Balcombe, 58, was motivated by an “obsessive desire to outdo his competitors”, said ABC News. He paid his co-offenders A$2,000 (£1,000) to firebomb businesses across Melbourne in late 2016 and early 2017.

Many of the fires, lit with fuel or Molotov cocktails, “failed to take hold or incurred only minor damage”, added the broadcaster. But one attack “destroyed more than 100 jumping [bouncy] castles and caused extensive damage, destroying the livelihood of the business’s owner”.

Balcombe, whose company Awesome Party Hire was “ranked number one on Google after he commissioned the attacks on rival businesses”, said The Guardian, was arrested after he ordered his own premises to be attacked. He instructed one of his co-defendants, Craig Anderson, to firebomb his own business as he was “worried police would notice his own factory was still standing”, said New Zealand news site 1 News. When Anderson was caught, he “dobbed Balcombe in to police, naming him as instigator of the fires”, added the website. 

Balcombe’s lawyer, Simon Kenny, said it was accepted that Balcombe was the instigator of the attacks and submitted that the offending was “amateurish, short-sighted and unsophisticated”.

The judge, Stewart Bayles, said that while Balcombe’s goal may have been to advance his own business by orchestrating the arson attacks, the damage had extended far beyond that.

“It impacted the lives and livelihoods of others, caused significant loss, suffering and emotional trauma,” he said.

Bayles added that Balcombe’s offending was persistent, with one of the rival businesses targeted three times, after two attacks had failed. 

“You could have changed your mind when you saw the damage caused to the property. You could have pulled back, stopped, but you did not,” Bayles said.

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