The Independent reports: 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.
While I am more than happy to go along with Jack Straw’s statement …“no evidence” of any “unacceptable behaviour by Freemason judges… I am not sure that it is a great idea to cave in to possible legal action by The United Grand Lodge. If Grand Lodge maintains that Masonry is not a secret society why should they be so concerned that judges – who do occupy a rather important place in the firmament of justice – be required to reveal that they are masons? I would prefer to keep to the former practice where judges have to declare and I would hope that judges who, after all, have nothing to hide in the fact that they are masons, would declare voluntarily, given their importance to the administration of justice.
Birds of a feather flock together, whether we like the practical implications of this or not. It is part of life. The trouble with Freemasonry, it is argued, is the very secret nature of the proceedings. If you are not a mason, you just don’t know what influences masons bring to bear and what favours are granted to masons between themselves – if any. They say that they do not favour each other. I am not so sure about that. I have had some unusual handshakes and suggestions in my time and frankly, I am almost certain that masons will favour another mason over a non-mason all ‘other things being equal’ – whatever that means. More often than not – that will be perfectly harmless…. but it might be best, when it comes to justice – that we continue to keep a register of such interests?
I cannot, now, recall the case – but some years ago a judge halted a trial, telling the jury that the defendant had just revealed to the judge by a secret distress signal that he was a mason. The judge was right to disclose this – but it cost the state a fair bit of money to set a new trial. Maybe a reader will recall the exact case and remind me? Maybe this was just ‘urban myth’.
Of course – quite a few police officers, lawyers, prison officers, politicians, business people, magistrates are Masons – a society within a society? Is it a force for good? Undoubtedly the Masons have done great works of charity. This is a matter of public record. Is it just another hocus pocus bit of harmless mumbo jumbery which men, particularly, like to engage in – a chance to dress up, have arcane rituals and generally invent a way of life for themselves? Probably – it certainly seemed that way to me all those years ago when I was ‘approached’. Today the mantra seems to be – ‘To be one, you have to ask one’. They do have a website!
And moving from secrecy to another type of secrecy – Privacy.
Max Mosley, whose private sexual interests were emblazoned all over the News of The World earlier in the year is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to argue that newspaper editors should be obliged to forewarn people if a newspaper is likely to publish a story likely to invade the privacy of an individual.
I think Mosley has a fair point – when it comes to legitimate and lawful private interests, people are entitled to protection of law. The public interest point arises, however, if an individual’s private interests, personal, financial or otherwise, impact on his or her ability to do a job involving public interest. As the Guardian notes – “The changes he wants might undermine the right to freedom of expression.”
The developing privacy law, not by any means always associated with libel law, is a development we should keep a very close watch on. On the matter of libel law – here is a proposal From The Libel Reform Campaign which is worth reading.
And on to dishonest secrecy… Ofsted hid crucial evidence on Baby P sacking
The Times reports: “The childcare watchdog has admitted withholding crucial evidence that could potentially hand Sharon Shoesmith, the former head of children’s services at Haringey Council, hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. Ms Shoesmith was sacked after a damning Ofsted report into how her department was run in the aftermath of the Baby P case. A High Court judge has taken the extraordinary step of reopening her case so dozens of pages of handwritten notes, e-mails and draft reports can be examined.”
Putting the clock back? What? By our progressive DPP?
The Times reports: “The police may take over responsibility for bringing charges for thousands of minor offences each year under changes to be piloted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The move — which turns the clock back more than 20 years before the service was set up — would leave CPS lawyers to deal with more serious offences while police handled offences that can only be tried by magistrates.”
Infidelity murder defence to go
BBC: Ministers are pushing ahead with plans to end the right of murder suspects to cite the sexual infidelity of their partner as a partial defence in court. In last month’s Lords debate, deputy High Court judge Lord Thomas of Gresford described the plans as “illogical” and “outstandingly obnoxious”.
Well…..good to see that all is going swimmingly in the legal world and world of law.
Public record (“Is it a force for good? Undoubtedly the Masons have done great works of charity. This is a matter of public record. Is it just another hocus pocus bit of harmless mumbo jumbery…”)