Swimming coach to face trial on sexual exploitation and child abuse imagery charges

Matthew Coward (31) was arrested last month as part of a Garda divisional protective services unit investigation
Swimming coach to face trial on sexual exploitation and child abuse imagery charges

Tom Tuite

A swimming coach has been served with a book of evidence and returned for trial accused of making child abuse imagery and sexual exploitation offences at a pool in Dublin.

Matthew Coward (31), of Shantalla Drive, Santry, Dublin, was arrested last month as part of a Garda divisional protective services unit investigation. He was charged with 12 Child Trafficking and Pornography Act offences.

The coach, who is on bail, faces three counts of sexual exploitation of three girls and seven charges for production of child pornography on dates between September 1st, 2021, and February 26th at a swimming pool in Dublin.

There are another two charges for possessing child abuse imagery at another location.

He faced his second hearing on Tuesday when he appeared before Judge Gerard Jones at Blanchardstown District Court and was served with a book of evidence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had directed "trial on indictment", and the judge consented to the State's request to send the accused forward for trial to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Mr Coward must not engage in swimming coaching and will face his next hearing on October 20th. He has not yet indicated how he will plead.

The judge warned him to notify the prosecution within 14 days if he intended to use an alibi in his defence. He also ordered the State to give his solicitor copies of Mr Coward's interview videos.

Following an application by defence solicitor Damien Coffey, the court granted legal aid to include senior counsel due to the seriousness of the allegations.

At the first hearing on August 4th, Garda Sergeant Shane Behan said he arrested the accused at his home that morning before bringing him to Finglas Garda station to be charged.

Sergeant Behan said: "The accused made no reply after caution to each charge; he was handed true copies of each charge sheet."

He also told the court there was no objection to bail on a €200 bond, subject to conditions canvassed and agreed with the defence.

The accused must reside at his address and sign on twice-weekly at Santry Garda station. He has already handed over his passport to gardaí and must not apply for new travel documents.

He was ordered to "stay away from the scene listed on the charge sheets" and must have "no contact, directly or indirectly, any witness in this case". The judge explained this included using social media or "any electronic communication whatsoever".

Judge Jones also ordered that the accused must "refrain from engaging in any coaching roles".

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