The Northern Bar Masonic Lodge, which covers the Northern Circuit of Liverpool, Manchester and Preston, contains the highest number of practising barristers and sitting judges – 33 and 10 respectively – out of the five lodges associated with the Bar, according to statistics released recently by the Home Affairs Committee.
Previous figures from the committee showed that a quarter (16 out of 64) of the judges on the North Eastern Circuit – covering Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Sheffield and York – are known freemasons.
Commander Higham, the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge, told the committee that an “unwritten rule” is in operation covering the Northern Bar Lodge.
“In order to avoid any risk of allegations of improper soliciting for work, members have never been permitted to invite practising solicitors to visit the lodge as guests,” he explained.
The other four lodges that are known to be associated with the Bar are the Chancery Bar Lodge, containing four sitting judges and 21 barristers; Gray's Inn, with one judge and 13 barristers; the Midland, Oxfordshire and South East Bar Lodge, with four judges and 18 barristers; and the Western Circuit Lodge with two judges and 15 barristers. There is also a total of 14 retired judges and 29 retired barristers spread across the five lodges.
There are no lodges associated with the North Eastern or the Wales and Chester circuits. The Middle and Inner Temples also have no associated lodges.
Neil Addison, a Newcastle-based barrister and former Bar Council member, said he had known several masonic barristers and CPS prosecutors, but “I have never been aware of any problems as a result of masonic influences.”