Masons surrender over police scandals

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The Independent Online
THE leaders of England and Wales' Freemasons last night reluctantly surrendered the names of members of their secret society who are linked to a series of police scandals.

The decision to provide the list followed an extraordinary dispute with a committee of MPs who threatened to find the masons in contempt of Parliament if they refused to co-operate.

The United Grand Lodge, which represents 340,000 Freemasons in England and Wales, is to write to the Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Home Secretary, to express their anger and "concerns" at the affair.

The brotherhood provided 17 names of fellow masons out of a list of 161 people, mostly police officers, connected to three scandals

The affair comes at a time when Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has proposed measures to set up registers of Freemasons working in the criminal justice system. For months the Freemasons resisted requests from the Home Affairs Select Committee for the names of their members as part of an inquiry into whether the brotherhood was responsible in anyway for a number of notorious scandals.

A formal order was issued by the Sergeant at Arms after the Lodge's Grand Secretary, Commander Michael Higham, refused to release the names at a bad-tempered hearing of the committee two weeks ago.

Howeverthe Freemasons yesterday provided a list of eight out of about 60 police officers, a small number of journalists, magistrates, judges and a barrister, connected to the IRA pub bombings investigation that lead to the wrongful conviction of the Birmingham Six; seven names from 96 members of disbanded West Midland Serious Crime Squad; and two out of seven officers connected to the John Stalker affair, in which the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester was suspended from his investigation into whether the RUC operated a shoot-to-kill policy.

In a letter to the Committee chairman, Labour MP Chris Mullin, Cmdr Higham said: "The Board is extremely uncomfortable about this compulsion and has been reluctant to provide the information, because in its view the Committee's inquiry is an invasion into the privacy of the men concerned, who have not consented to their names being disclosed."

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