Parliament: Select Committee - Masons `had role in Stalker case'

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The Independent Online
FREEMASONRY WITHIN the police may have played a "significant" role in the Stalker affair and corruption in the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, MPs have concluded.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published the results yesterday of a two-year inquiry into the influence of masons in public life. The committee quoted several cases of improper interference in police operations and called on the Home Office to speed plans to to disclose which officers were Freemasons.

Voluntary codes requiring judges, police and staff in the Crown Prosecution Service to declare Masonic membership should be toughened and should be accompanied by similar rules for MPs, peers and councillors, the report recommended. The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, should push through his proposals to establish registers of Masonic status.Only three of the country's 43 police forces have created them.

The committee found that the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, which was disbanded over allegations of malpractice, had five senior members who were Freemasons. The MPs concluded that although Freemasonry was not a primary cause of the problems within the squad, "we cannot entirely exclude the possibility that it may have been a contributory factor".

Freemasonry was not a significant factor in the Birmingham pub bombings investigations by the squad, but the fact that the stipendiary magistrate was a Mason would have given rise to "justifiable public concern" if it had been known.

Freemasonry may also have been a factor in the Stalker affair, in which John Stalker, former Assistant Chief Constable of Manchester, was removed from an investigation into shoot-to-kill policies allegedly conducted by security forces in Northern Ireland. Seven police officers of the rank of superintendent or above involved in the affair were Masons.

There are about 350,000 Freemasons in England and Wales. They said that pressure to declare membership had led to an "unprecedented" wave of resignations.