Justice without the veil of secrecy

Last week's decision by Home Secretary Jack Straw that those entering the criminal justice system would have to disclose their membership of the freemasons in the future has caused the usual furore.

It was hardly surprising that such a decision provoked outrage from many quarters of the legal profession.

Judges in particular are incensed by the prospect of registering their membership of the freemasons and as a result are loudly complaining about loss of privacy.

In their eyes, membership of the freemasons should be no more noteworthy than belonging to a golf club.

Of course, networking is an important aspect of business life and is done via membership of clubs, groups and societies.

Freemasonry may be viewed as just another such club.

However, no-one can dispute that it is an organisation which generates more controversy than most others, much of which relates to its legendary code of secrecy.

Above all though, the needs of the criminal justice system must come before the needs of a secret society.

No shadow must be allowed to lurk over the delivery of justice.

It is extremely important to the integrity of the criminal justice system that there be as much openness as possible with regard to those who are a part of it.

To Jack Straw's credit, he has taken the concerns on board and his move is therefore to be welcomed.

But, the fact remains that those already working in the criminal justice system have got off lightly with the proposals for voluntary registration that Jack Straw has put forward.