May 2023

Ex headteacher sent sexually explicit pictures to ’14-year-old boy’

A former Suffolk headteacher sent sexually explicit pictures to an undercover officer posing online as a 14-year-old boy, a court has heard.

During conversations on Grindr over a period of ten days Matthew Coombs chatted with the decoy schoolboy and arranged to meet him at Cineworld in Ipswich.

However, Coombs was arrested at his home before the meeting could take place, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

David Ryan, prosecuting, said that during chats with Coombs between February 10 and 20 2020 the decoy boy made it clear he was 14.

Coombs had discussed sexual topics with him and sent him a sexually explicit picture of a naked man.

Following his arrest police discovered Coombs had carried out a web search to find out if the police monitored Grindr.

On his way to the police station after his arrest Coombs said he didn’t have anything to hide and asked if it was a defence if he didn’t know the boy was under 16.

When he was interviewed by police he read a prepared statement in which he accepted communicating with a male he believed was over 16.

He accepted there was a conversation about meeting up but he said he wouldn’t have followed it up.

When he was confronted with chat logs in which the decoy boy said he was 14 Coombs claimed he hadn’t seen the messages.

Coombs had denied being sexually attracted to children at the school where he was headmaster.

Coombs of Wetherden Road, Elmswell, admitted attempted sexual communication with a child and was given a two year community order, a 35 day rehabilitation activity requirement and 150 hours unpaid work.

He was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for five years and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for the same period.

Sentencing him Judge Nicola Talbot-Hadley said that prior to the offence Coombs had led a “law abiding and constructive life”.

She described the offence as “horrible” and said Coombs was fortunate that the person he had been chatting was someone pretending to be a 14-year-old boy and not a real child.

Natasha Nair for Coombs said his employment as a headteacher was over and he now had a cleaning job.