Solicitors have been accused of favouring masonic barristers and conspiring with clients and police officers to unfairly influence cases. It is alleged that there are masonic law firms to which freemason-solicitors gravitate.
Sir John Welch, a freemason since the mid-1950s, is a property partner with Covent Garden law firm Wedlake Bell. Twenty years ago, he was approached by a senior executive at Freemasons' Hall to take over the legal account for the Grand Lodge. He accepted the post and is still client partner. He is very active. An ex-president of the masonic Grand Charity, he is a member of several lodges and attends about one meeting per month.
He said: “I became a freemason because my grandfather and father were both masons and I felt that what was good enough for them was good enough for me. It wasn't a major decision because I had always assumed I was going to become a mason.
“The whole thing builds up into a worthwhile organisation. Socially, it's fun. The meetings are enjoyable. Morally it's good, and from a charity point of view it's excellent.
“I don't know why I was asked if I would act for Grand Lodge. I was approached by someone I knew well who was senior in freemasonry and I knew him basically through masonry.
“I suspect that he had probably done quite a lot of checking up to see what my firm was like. If I had not been a mason, I don't know whether he would have approached me. But I am quite certain that he wouldn't have come to me just because I am a mason.
“I don't know what a masonic firm is. I have never come across any firm which calls itself masonic. Does it mean they only take clients who are masons? I don't know whether many of my clients are masons or not, and there is no reason why I should. I wouldn't necessarily know whether members of staff or partners are masons. It certainly wouldn't have any effect on employing staff or taking in partners. It's just not relevant.
“I have never in my professional practice been influenced by whether somebody I'm dealing with is a mason. It wouldn't occur to me. On the other hand, it could be difficult when dealing with a personal friend whether a freemason or not.
“We have got about 30 partners here. I am aware that one of them is a practising mason, but I wouldn't know if the rest are or not.
“Freemasonry is not there to further the ends of masons. One of the major precepts is that you must not use masonry for personal advantage.
“I honestly believe there is nothing that freemasons have to hide and therefore the more we talk about the subject the better.”