How vigilantes’ sting resulted in arrest of child grooming suspect working at St Albans nursery

The St Albans hospital Busy Bees nursery

The St Albans hospital Busy Bees nursery - Credit: Archant

A child grooming suspect who works at a local nursery has been bailed by police after information was handed over by a vigilante group.

Officers from the Herts Police specialist child online safeguarding team arrested a 25-year-old man from St Albans last Wednesday, April 20.

The man, who works at Busy Bees nursery within the grounds of St Albans City Hospital, has been questioned on suspicion of inciting a teenager to engage in a sexual act, and released on police bail until July 22, pending further investigation by the police.

As a result, Ofsted decided to temporarily suspend the registration of the nursery, an action labelled as ‘extremely disappointing’ by Busy Bees.

The centre was closed for one day – Monday – with 100 children having to be relocated to the nursery provider’s other local nurseries.

However the suspension was soon lifted, allowing the centre to reopen as usual on Tuesday (26).

Ofsted press officer Emma Bowden-Wright said that it had suspended the registration of the early years setting while an “urgent investigation” was carried out.

Most Read

She added: “When it comes to the early years, the safety of young children is paramount. Decisions to suspend registrations are never taken lightly.”

Ofsted did not respond to further questions in relation to either the brief closure, or the education watchdog’s investigation. But, its findings are expected to be published shortly.

A man who is a member of an online vigilante group contacted the Herts Advertiser about the group’s work, and to alert the paper to last week’s arrest.

He said that alleged evidence had been handed over to the police, after a decoy account was set up by the online Facebook group.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We are all vigilantes, but we aren’t here to cause trouble – we are here to protect children.”

For legal reasons, the Herts Police would not comment on the actions of the group.

When the nursery was shut at the start of the week, a Busy Bees spokesman confirmed that a member of staff at the hospital-based centre had been arrested “in connection with an incident that took place away from our nursery.

“We are treating the situation seriously and in accordance with our procedures have contacted all the relevant agencies.

“The safety and care of children at our nurseries is and always will be our first priority. As this continues to be the subject of a formal police investigation, and for reasons of confidentiality, we are unable to provide any further information.”

After the nursery had successfully appealed against its closure, Marg Randles, managing director of Busy Bees, said on Tuesday that parents were relieved at Ofsted’s decision to lift its suspension, as it had been a “major feat to find places in our neighbouring Busy Bees nurseries for over 100 children”.

She praised the nursery manager and staff for working ‘tirelessly’ over the weekend to ensure each child was looked after during the one-day closure.

Marg said that although Ofsted’s decision to temporarily suspend the registration was “disappointing, we understand that Ofsted has a duty of care to children and needed some time to investigate further”.