All 75 members of the Law Society Council are to be asked whether or not they are Freemasons for a report to the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Derek Sands, chair of the Law Society's courts and legal services committee, and Robert Roscoe, chair of the Criminal Law Committee, agreed to undertake the survey when they were giving evidence to the select committee last week. The committee is investigating masonic influence in the police and judiciary.
The Law Society's criminal law committee initially wrote to the select committee saying it believed police officers, judges and magistrates should be prohibited entirely from membership of the Masons.
However, giving their oral evidence, Roscoe and Sands said they believed judges and police should be allowed to join, but that they should have to declare membership in a public register. “It's not that we have evidence of malpractice,” said Roscoe, “but that there is a public perception of malpractice.”
Asked about the number of masons present within the legal community, both Roscoe and Sands revealed that they had no idea, but said neither were masons themselves.
Roscoe said he had never met another lawyer whom he knew to be a mason and Sands claimed he had only met three in his entire career.
Sir Ian Percival QC, a former Solicitor General and a prominent mason, who also gave evidence last week, accused vice chairman Labour MP Chris Mullin of being smug.
Percival complained: “Everyone keeps talking about secrecy. There is no secrecy within the Masons. The only thing kept secret is the way in which members recognise each other
“If someone is blathering on saying he is a mason, I would like to know whether he is one.”
Mullin replied: “So would the rest of us.”
Percival said he had been involved in setting up a disciplinary procedure in the Craft around 20 years ago.
He maintained that the few “bad eggs” in the Masons were expelled when they came to the disciplinary panel's attention.
When Mullin suggested that it did not seem very easy to expel people from the Masons, Percival retorted: “Some of these questions are so smug it's unbelievable.”