Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Mason Star
Photo: Nick Cobbing

Boyz In The Hood

The recent Home Office recommendation that all members of the criminal justice system should declare masonic affiliations opened a can of worms in public. Peter Panatone reviews the evidence and the significant rift the issue has caused amongst the British police force.

Squall 16, Summer 1998, pp. 30-32.

Weird isn't it? To think that policemen, judges, MPs, council officers and a multitude of other public servants go through such bizarre rituals.

Wearing a shoe on one foot and a slipper on the other, they roll up their trouser leg, bear their chest, are blindfolded and tied with a hangman's noose and, whilst standing on a marble chess board with a dagger pressed to their heart, swear oaths of secrecy, allegiance and mutual aid. And yet this ritual is performed by every one of the 350,000 masons in England and Wales, the 30,000 in Scotland and the estimated six million world-wide.

Such occult practices would normally be easy fodder for tabloid derision but one look at the kind of names known to be Freemasons explains why public criticism has up until now remained so scant. In Britain, aristocratic members of the 'brotherhood' - for they are all men - include the Duke of Edinburgh; the Earl of Cadogan; the Marquess of Northampton and the Duke of Kent. Among the political figures known to be 'on the square' are Willie Whitelaw, Cecil Parkinson and the current head of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Sir Frederick Crawford.

Whilst a few high profile 'brethren' break cover to perform a public relations role and a few others are 'outed' by tenacious researchers, most Masons in public positions, including those populating the two Masonic lodges thought to operate in the Houses of Parliament, remain clandestine. When author and researcher Martin Short wrote to Willie Whitelaw asking him if he was a Freemason, the ex-Home Secretary replied: "I have never been an active Mason since I entered the House of Commons in 1955." However, the 1987 yearbook for the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland - not publicly available but shown to Squall- reveals that he is still an active Freemason and a Scottish representative of Australia's Grand Lodge of New South Wales. The casual ease with which such an influential political figure was prepared to lie about his Masonic affiliations casts further doubt upon Masonic integrity. It is a doubt many see will only be assuaged by enforced public declaration of Masonic membership by all public officials.

According to Sir Maurice Drake, a top ranking Royal Arch Mason and the High Courts' principal libel lawyer before retiring in 1995, the public's concern is misplaced: "It involves play-acting. An outsider might say it is a lot of grown men behaving like children. I can understand that but it is fun. The secrecy was always silly and I think the majority of people think that it is not very important." His fellow judicial Mason, Lord Justice Millet, concords: "It involves a certain amount of learning and performing which is quite fun. We claim to have secrets but they are harmless. There is nothing in the slightest bit sinister."

However, the oaths of secrecy sworn by Freemasons sound anything but innocuous. Upon entering the first level of Masonry, an initiate promises to guard its secrets upon pain of "having my throat cut out by the root and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark... or the more effective punishment of being branded as a wilfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth." This so-called "harmless play-acting" seems remarkably effective in ensuring secrecy. Even those who have ceased to be Masons refuse to speak of its ceremonies and practices, whilst the very few people with experience of Masonry who have dared to speak to researchers have done so anonymously. There is little doubt that retribution for public disclosure is a real threat in the minds of all those who have ever been initiated. 

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Commander Michael Higham wriggled in his chair in visible discomfort. In front of a packed press gallery, his pallor grew ever more pale as he sat cornered by questions thrown at him with increasing frustration by members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

As grand secretary to the United Grand Lodge of Freemasonry, the governing body for English and Welsh Masons, he had been requested to provide the committee with the names of Masonic police officers involved with units responsible for several miscarriages of justice. Despite indicating to the committee in November 1997 that the United Grand Lodge would reveal these names, a 50-strong meeting of the Masonic Board of General Purposes had ordered Higham not to reveal them afterall. The miscarriages of justice in question were major ones: the scurrilous ruining of John Stalker, the ex-Chief Constable of Manchester who got too close to the truth in his investigations into the Royal Ulster Constabulary's shoot to kill policy in Northern Ireland; the disgraced West Midlands Serious Crime Squad which, after 30 charges of misconduct, was closed down in 1986, and the discredited police investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings which led to the malicious prosecution and imprisonment of the now pardoned Birmingham Six.

Ex-police officers had made allegations that Freemason officers in the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad had operated a "firm within a firm". Serious allegations of malign Masonic manipulation extended to police officers in the John Stalker affair and to both journalists and police officers implicated in the Birmingham Six scandal. The Home Affairs Select Committee, which had been considering the influence of Freemasonry on the judiciary and police since 1995, wanted to know which of the 161 names under suspicion in these cases were Masons so that it could assess the validity of these allegations. But now, Commander Higham - who once gave a speech asserting "there is very little secret about Freemasonry" - was refusing to comply with one of the most powerful select committees in parliament. "I hope you will accept that is 'no', but not with contempt," he whimpered in his impossible situation as public fall guy for the clandestine Masonic hierarchy.

For a while a constitutional crisis looked on the cards. The Serjeant at Arms issued an order giving the United Grand Lodge 14 days to comply with the request of the Committee or else........ what? No one had ever defied parliament in this way before but now the Freemasons thought themselves powerful enough to try. Both parliament and the press held its breath. Finally, as the deadline approached, a deal was made. The United Grand Lodge agreed to provide Chris Mullin, the Chairman of the Select Committee, with the requested names on condition that only he and the clerk to the committee would see them. Not even the other members of the Committee would be allowed to see them and many argued that the necessity to strike a deal at all provided further evidence of the extant political power still wielded by Masons. The hapless Commander Michael Higham, who many view as a relatively harmless Mason occupying a public relations role, informed the Committee that the United Grand Lodge was to retire him early for reasons that he did not know.

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The persistent public impression that masonry provides a conduit of perniciously manipulative influence in the police force finally found direct evidence to back up its concerns in the 1960's, when 12 officers from Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Squad were jailed for taking bribes from pornographers.

All 12 were found to be Freemasons, with one of them, Chief Superintendent Bill Moody, discovered to have helped one of the pornographers to become a fellow Freemason. The integrity of the police force in general took a serious denting from the scandal and non-Masonic police officers weren't keen to take the rap. Public condemnation of freemasonic influence was, however, slow to appear.

In a pamphlet entitled "The Principles of Policing and Guidance for Professional Behaviour" published in April 1985, the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Kenneth Newman concluded: "The discerning officer will probably consider it wise to forego the prospect of pleasure and social advantage in Freemasonry so as to enjoy the unreserved regard of all those around him. It follows from this that one who is already a Freemason would also be wise to ponder, from time to time, whether he should continue as a Freemason; that it would probably be prudent in the light of the way that our force is striving in these critical days, to present to the public a more open and wholehearted image of itself, to show a greater readiness to be invigilated and to be free of any unnecessary concealment or secrecy." Despite this call, the Manor of St James Lodge No9179 was set up exclusively for Metropolitan Police officers in 1989. At least two Deputy Assistant Commissioners and 12 commanders, including the heads of the Anti-Terrorist Squad and the head of Scotland Yard's intelligence service, are known to have joined this lodge. The present Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Condon, reiterated Sir Kenneth Newman's call with a similar degree of unsuccess: "Because of the public's concern surrounding this issue I would advise my colleagues that it is better that they are not involved in Freemasonry."

Condon is presently being sued by a former metropolitan police officer for several malicious prosecutions brought after a Masonic dispute. Graham Peacock, a police constable for 26 years and a member of Masonic lodges in both London and Surrey, claims to have been victimised after a "bitter dispute" with a fellow Masonic police officer in 1992. Since that time he is alleged to have been maliciously prosecuted on three separate occasions for cannabis cultivation, murder and the illegal possession of firearms. He was acquitted of all these charges but spent time in prison on remand. He also claims that his wife has been phoned up and threatened, and that his cat went missing only to be found dead later with "horrific injuries", thrown in the neighbour's garden. If such exchanges go on between fellow Masonic police officers, what happens to others who have run-ins with Freemasonic officers? Two Leicester businessmen found out when they decided to have a late night drink at the Goat Moat House Hotel in Blackburn where they were staying in April 1988. Sidney and Shaun Callis (father and son) were unaware they had walked into the 'Ladies night' organised by the Victory Lodge of Blackburn. Two Masonic Lancashire police officers approached the pair and ordered them out of the hotel bar. After refusing to leave, the couple were beaten up and then charged with assault by other Masonic police officers also present. When the two men were released on bail the following morning, they found that the hotel management had seized the Callis' belongings demanding compensation for damage to the bar. The Hotel manager was later found to be a Mason and a member of the Victory Lodge. The Callis' also found that the tyres of their car had been drained of air and the hub caps removed.

When their assault charge reached court the following year, the jury rejected police evidence and acquitted the pair. The Callis' subsequently sued Lancashire Police for malicious prosecution and won £85,000 in compensation. The total pay out, including court costs, came to £170,000. However, the retribution did not stop there. Since 1989, unknown police officers put phoney criminal records for Sidney and Shaun Callis on the police national computer. Another unnamed person wrote to police suggesting that Sidney Callis was responsible for murdering two people, shot dead on the Pembrokeshire Coast in 1989. He was arrested for murder and interrogated at Hinckley Police Station before being released. Leicestershire Police also made efforts to revoke Sidney Callis's 12-bore shotgun licence. As Callis told Private Eye magazine in April: "I've never had so much as a parking fine."

The Home Affairs Select Committee was told that the Victory Lodge in Blackburn, whose members triggered this catalogue of retribution, is a lodge set up for police Masons.

According to Martin Short, author of 'Inside the Brotherhood' and a major testifier before the Home Affairs Select Committee, an estimated 25 per cent of Metropolitan Police officers and 20 per cent of national police officers still belong to Masonic lodges.

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The United Grand Lodge of England estimate that membership of freemasonry has declined by an estimated 200,000 over the last 30 years. Partly as a result of this diminution of power, more non-masonic public service officials have felt braver about publicly criticising the masonic network's influence on promotion prospects within their profession.

The pace of this dissent in the police force picked up considerably when the powerful Home Affairs Select Committee instigated its inquiry into the influence of Freemasonry on the police and the judiciary in 1995, an event which immediately split the police force in two. Whilst the Police Complaints Authority and the Association of Chief Police Officers called for public declaration, the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents' Association were vehemently against. The rift reached public airing after the 1995 Police Complaints Authority (PCA) annual report called for compulsory public declaration of Masonic membership by all police officers. Its chairman, Sir Leonard Peach, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the PCA wanted to allay public fears that Masonry was being used to influence the outcome of its investigations.

The Police Superintendents' Association's backlash was remarkable. They told the committee: "Over the past two years our confidence in the impartiality of the PCA has been shaken. Many of our members no longer see the PCA as being truly independent."

Indeed, public confidence in the PCA, whose investigations are predominantly staffed by members of the police force, has never been that strong. As the body responsible for investigating malpractice in the police force, many have pointed out the questionable validity of having the police investigate the police. However, for the Police Superintendent's Association to criticise the PCA's impartiality was unheard of, and provided further indication of the tenacity with which Masonry would fight to avoid public exposure.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which acknowledged to the Committee that between five and ten Chief Constables (out of 43) are Masons, were nevertheless in favour of a declaration of membership in order to restore public confidence. This caused an internal rift within ACPO itself. Paul Whitehouse, ACPO's vice chairman and Chief Constable of Sussex, asserted that "It's the secrecy that is cause for concern", whilst David Wilmott, Chief Constable of Manchester and presumably one of the five to ten Masons in ACPO, called it "an infringement of personal liberty".

The Police Federation, which represents the rank and file of the police service, acknowledged to the committee that "there may well be a significant number" of their members who were Masons and were critical of ACPO's pro-declaration stance: "It is for those who allege that Freemasonry does have such harmful consequences to establish a case, and so far such persons or bodies that take this view, have totally failed to furnish such evidence. Rumour and innuendo are not enough to make the case." The paradox of the Federation's position was there for all to see. Which policeman, for instance, could hope to firmly establish any case if the identity of all potential suspects was kept secret from them?

Indeed, the Home Affairs Select Committee received a number of submissions from individual police officers who remained anonymous in the Committee's subsequent report. Whilst six of these submissions were from Masonic policemen insisting their membership had no adverse affect on their professional conduct, ten submissions were from policemen who claimed malign Masonic influence at work. The allegations they cited included suppression of serious criminal and disciplinary allegations, promotion preferment for Freemasons; cheating in promotion exams facilitated by Masonic connections and falsifying blood test results for Freemasons charged with drink driving. A constituent of Chris Mullin's (the current chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee) wrote to the MP saying: "I am a retired Chief Superintendent who commanded the Commercial Fraud Squad and Complaints and Discipline Department in a big metropolitan force and, as such, I conducted many enquiries in various parts of this country and abroad. I have frequently experienced interference from Masonic sources calculated to impede the progress of an enquiry and do not doubt that improper decisions have been made along the way." Mullin was charged with not revealing any details of his case in order to protect the ex-police officer. From what?

More fearless was PC Kitit Gordhandas, from West Yorkshire Police, who wrote to the Police Review saying: "I feel that Freemasonry stands for white, male, middle-class members working for the advancement of themselves and their fellow Masons."

After a two year enquiry, the Home Affairs Select Committee published their report in 1997: "We believe that nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement." The report recommended that "police officers, magistrates, judges and crown prosecutors should be required to register membership of any secret society and that the record should be available publicly."

Home Secretary Jack Straw has acknowledged this recommendation and looks set to insist it covers the entire criminal justice system. Earlier this year, Straw told the House of Commons: "The Freemasons have said they are not a secret society but a society with secrets. I think it is widely accepted that one secret they should not be keeping is who their members are in the criminal justice system."

Exactly how this is to be implemented is not yet known or indeed whether such public declaration might be extended to public servants both national and local. Certainly the clandestine leviathan of Freemasonry still has a multitude of friends in high places and has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point. The battle against the malignant opportunities for political and social manipulation offered by the extensive and secret network of Masonic influence is far from over.

Related Articles
Lodging Complaints - Peter Panatone investigates the Exodus Collective's run-in with the Freemasons of Bedfordshire - Squall 16, Summer 1998
Testimony Of A Top Ranking Freemason - A 33rd degree Mason breaks cover - Squall 16, Summer 1998
Select Committee Slams Secret Society - Freemasons drag heels on disclosure of influence of masonry on public life. Squall Download 1, October 1999