The Telegraph, U.K.
Straw threatens to police Masons
By Joe Murphy, Political Editor
POLICE officers could be forced to disclose membership of the Freemasons after a voluntary system of registration failed because it was boycotted by the rank and file.
Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has called for talks with chief constables after only a fraction of possible Freemasons admitted belonging to the organisation. Mr Straw is now asking forces to put pressure on officers to comply otherwise he will introduce a compulsory system. The voluntary register was established in 32 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales last year. More than two-thirds of officers either did not respond or refused to answer the question.
The boycott is a set-back to Labour's long-held commitment to end the Masonic culture within the criminal justice system which many backbench MPs believe encourages police and judges to feel that they are under an obligation to fellow lodge members.
On average, only 36.6 per cent of police officers responded to letters asking them to make declarations for the register. Of those who did, 1.1 per cent declared membership of the Freemasons although the Home Office suspects that the true figure is 10 times higher. Some 9.5 per cent of the respondents refused to say whether or not they were Freemasons while nine out of 10 said they were not.
Among the judiciary 96 per cent responded, with five per cent declaring membership of the Freemasons, 89.7 per cent declaring that they were not members, and only 1.3 per cent declining to answer.
Of magistrates 88 per cent replied, five per cent declared that they were Freemasons, 80 per cent said they were not, and only 2.3 per cent refused to answer the question. Ministers recognise that compulsory registration could be challenged in the courts under the Human Rights Act.