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Judicial freemasons can keep their secrets

10 November 2009

Justice secretary Jack Straw has abandoned his policy of requiring applicants for judicial office to disclose whether they are freemasons.

The policy was introduced in 1998, even though a report by the home affairs select committee at the time made no finding of impropriety arising from membership of the masons.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Straw said the United Grand Lodge of England had approached him in May this year, following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Grande Oriente d’ltalia di Palazzo Guistiniani v Italy (no 2) (application no 26740/02).

The ECtHR held that it was discriminatory under article 14 of the Convention for Italian masons to have to declare their membership when applying for certain public posts, and not the members of other non-secret organisations, however extreme.

Straw said that as a result he ordered a review of his policy, which again found no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason.

The justice secretary said that in his judgment “it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information”.

Straw said there were existing safeguards to support the proper performance of judicial functions, including the judicial oath, the availability of the complaints procedure and the independence of the Judicial Appointments Commission.

In a separate development, the ECtHR is recruiting a judge from the UK to replace Sir Nicolas Bratza, who steps down next year after two terms of six years at the court.

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Discrimination Children Local government Courts & Judiciary