The man who set off multiple bombs in Penticton will have his sentence decided at a later date.
Blair Robert Blach, 50, appeared in Penticton’s Law Courts on June 14 to be sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of driving while prohibited, mischief and making explosives. Balch has a hefty criminal record, with 87 convictions some for violent crimes.
“I had no intent to hurt anybody, that’s why I did it at the time. I see around and make sure nobody would get hurt,” Balch told the court. “I’m not a terrorist.”
Following Crown and defence’s submissions, the judge determined he would need more time to review the case law and submissions before making his decision. Defence is seeking a 12-month conditional sentence.
Crown is requesting 13 months in jail for Balch, followed by a six-month sentence of 24-hour house arrest and then six months of strict curfew.
On March 6, around 2:30 a.m. RCMP received a complaint about hearing an explosion in King’s Park. An investigation at that time did not find anything suspicious.
The next day, just after 8 p.m. the same resident called in a second complaint, and RCMP Const. Robinson, who was in the area, was dispatched to the location. This time the caller reported seeing someone running from the area shortly after hearing the explosion.
At that time, no one was located, but a search of the area found two improvised explosive devices under the bleachers at King’s Park that had been detonated. Const. Robinson noted that the explosives had caused large dents in the bleachers.
Surveillance video from a nearby residence showed an individual riding a bicycle away from the area who appeared to show little attention to the explosion that occurred seconds before they appeared on video.
On March 8, multiple calls regarding a third explosion near the grounds of Carmi Elementary at 11:30 p.m. That explosive was found to have detonated on top of an electrical junction box, destroying the lock hinge and denting it.
A fourth IED was discovered in the creek near Carmi Elementary School on March 11 by Const. Robinson during a foot patrol. After informing the principal of the school, the principal provided the RCMP another device that had been sitting north of the park a few days prior to Robinson’s discovery.
After the explosive device team arrived on scene, a further search found a fifth IED, destroying both of the devices along the creek with a single blast.
Surveillance footage from businesses in the area showed two individuals, one with a distinctive bicycle. RCMP came to believe that Balch was a suspect. At Burdock House, where Balch lives, they found him and his distinctive bicycle.
On March 18 they received a warrant and searched his residence, locating a backpack matching surveillance footage.
According to Balch’s defense, he claimed responsibility for only three devices, the instructions for which he had found on Youtube. He claimed the King’s Park explosive and the Carmi explosive, and one of the IEDs that was found in the creek was his, with the last device having been a dud.
The remaining bombs did not have evidence that clearly linked to Balch, and his lawyer noted that the presence of another individual in the area of Carmi as Balch that there could have been another bomb-maker.
He denied working with anyone else or making any other explosives.
The Crown cited the extreme danger to the public as well as Balch’s extensive criminal record requires a jail sentence.
That record includes previous instances of violence, property crime, drug offences and breach of court orders, which landed him a lifetime firearm ban that also includes explosive substances.
According to the Crown, he fell into alcohol use at age 11 and then into harder substances including meth and cocaine. The last time he was employed was in 1998, and he also reportedly spends $100 a week gambling at the casino. He continues to use amphetamines on a daily basis.
The psychological report considered him to be at a moderate to high risk of future violence and a moderate to high risk of general recidivism. Both risks jump to the high range when he is using illegal drugs or experiencing overwhelming distress.
The report also recommends individual psychotherapy and or anger and emotional management programming as well as substance abuse programming.
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