Judges (Freemasons)

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1984.

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Mr. Fraser:

asked the Attorney-General if the Lord Chancellor collects information on how many judges are freemasons.

Mr. Fraser:

On the basis that justice should be done and be seen to be done, does the hon. and learned Gentleman think it right that the judge and perhaps one of the parties to proceedings should be members of a secret society able to communicate that fact to each other, and members of a society to which perhaps one of the other parties to the proceedings—a woman or the victim of a crime—cannot belong? Does he agree that the healthiest thing under those circumstances is to have full disclosure?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The important thing is that the judge should be loyal to his judicial oath, which is to do justice without fear or favour, affection or ill will. A judge can discharge that important responsibility while being a freemason, which is a perfectly lawful thing to be, just as he could if he were a Forester, a Buffalo or an Oddfellow.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Is it not a fact that no one, not even a judge, is without his private and personal loyalties and prejudices and that a judge puts such things aside when he acts in a public capacity? On that ground, are we not fortunate in the quality of our judiciary? Would it not be extremely harmful if there were to be some form of personal test of integrity?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is extremely important that judges should be representative of the community. They are. We have a judiciary that is much more impartial than suits the book of many of its detractors.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Why does the hon. and learned Gentleman not recognise that there is some anxiety on this issue? If it was right for the police in London to be advised to give up their membership of such societies, why should the same not apply to those who decide on cases, such as judges?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

A judge who recognises a conflict of interest can stand down from any involvement with the case. A police officer cannot.