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At least 16 per cent and up to 27 per cent of the male magistrates that sit on the Council of the Magistrates Association are Freemasons, according to a survey published last week.
Anne Fuller, chair of the Magistrates Association, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that of the 51 male members of her council who returned a questionnaire, eight revealed they were masons. However, eight of the 59 male members of the council had failed to reply.
The select committee is investigating masonic influence in the legal system. Two weeks ago, Lord Mackay agreed to ask senior judges to disclose to the committee, voluntarily, whether they were masons, but refused to initiate a compulsory survey or a register of all judges.
Chris Mullin, vice-chairman the select committee, told Fuller: "You have done rather better than we have at obtaining any figures."
Writer and investigator of masons, Martin Short, has estimated that approximately 2 per cent of the adult male population of the UK have masonic connections.
Fuller said magistrates had to be representative of the community, but she added: "It is not a straightforward equation of going from 16 per cent to 2 per cent. You would expect more magistrates to be members of organisations like the Round Table."
The select committee's investigation also prompted the Magistrates Association to change its admission procedures so that applicants to the magistracy would be compelled to state whether or not they were masons.
The president of the Police Superintendents' Association Chief Superintendent Brian Mackenzie told the committee that his members would not have any objection to a compulsory public register of masons in the force, provided a register was also applied to lawyers and other members of the judicial system.