News and other Busyness
Handshakes In High Places
"large number of freemasons within the criminal justice system.”
Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 10.
THE HOME AFFAIRS Select Committee has recommended that “police officers, magistrates, judges and crown prosecutors should be required to register membership of any secret society and that the records should be available publicly”.
After deliberating on the issue for many months, the Committee finally published its report on the influence of ‘Freemasonry in the police and the judiciary’ in March.
It was a highly controversial inquiry involving interviews with experts on both sides of the issue. These included Martin Short, author of the investigative ‘Inside the Brotherhood’, Ray White - president of the Association of Chief Police Officers and Commander Michael Higham RN, Grand Secretary of the United Lodge of Freemasonry and member of several lodges including the Knights Templar and the Knights of St John.
The Committee of 11 MPs, chaired by ex-Tory MP Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, concluded that “there are a large number of Freemasons within the criminal justice system” and that “there is widespread public perception that Freemasonry can have an unhealthy influence on the criminal justice system”. However the Committee’s report stopped short of saying the public perception was correct.
Three Tory MPs consistently voted against the report, whilst Chris Mullin, Lab MP Sunderland South, remained a vigorous interrogator throughout.
A memorandum sent to the committee by Jack Straw (now Home Secretary), states his party’s position on the issue: “We believe that membership of the Freemasons (and any other similar organisation) should be a declarable, and registrable interest.”
However, in marked contrast to the public scrutiny suggested by the Home Affairs Select Committee, Straw adds: “We accept there are important and sensitive questions about how any register should be maintained and the criteria of access to this.”
There is still no word from Jack Straw about whether Sir Frederick Crawford will be replaced as the head of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Temporarily vociferous outrage followed the appointment last August of Sir Frederick, a top Royal Arch Mason, to head the new agency responsible for investigating miscarriages of justice.
The Committee’s conclusions can be found in the third report Volume 1, HMSO (£6.20), whilst the interview transcripts and memoranda are published in the third report volume 2, HMSO (£19.50).