Anger at ‘cloak of secrecy’ for Freemason judges

Author: By Ben Padley, Press Association

Gordon Prentice (Pendle) said there would again be a “cloak of secrecy”
following the move by the Justice Secretary.

Mr Straw said last week that a review had shown no evidence of “impropriety or
malpractice” as a result of a judge being a Freemason and it would be
“disproportionate” to continue with the practice, introduced in 1998.

The United Grand Lodge of England made representations to ministers in May and
indicated it might seek judicial review of the policy.

At Commons question time today Mr Prentice asked: “Is it not a disgrace that
you have decided to allow judges no longer to have to declare if they are
Freemasons?

“We know that one in 20 of our judges are Freemasons. Why on earth the cloak
of secrecy?”

Mr Straw replied: “There was no secrecy about my announcement, I made the
announcement by way of written ministerial statement last week in the light
of a European Court of Human Rights judgment against the state of Italy,
which was made in 2006, and to which our attention was drawn by the Grand
Lodge of Freemasons.

“It suggested that a continuation of a compulsory register…was likely to be
unlawful. After legal advice I accepted that. It is open to any judge to
declare that they are Freemasons.”

He added that there had been “no evidence” of any “unacceptable behaviour by
Freemason judges.

Ministry of Justice figures indicate there are 3,808 judges in England and
Wales and 205 or 5.4 per cent are Freemasons. There are also 29,702
magistrates, of whom 1,900 or 6.4 per cent are Freemasons.

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