Judges no longer have to declare Freemasonry
Judges will no longer have to declare being a Freemason after Jack Straw scrapped a 11-year-rule he introduced amid fears he would lose a human rights battle.

The Guardian | November 5, 2009
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor

Since 1998 those becoming judges or magistrates have been required to say if they are a Mason after the then Home Secretary Mr Straw said membership of "secret societies such as freemasonry" could raise suspicions of impartiality and objectivity.

But, now Justice Secretary, Mr Straw has abandoned the requirement after the United Grand Lodge of England threatened legal action following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2007, the court ruled in favour of Italian Masons that making an official declare their membership breached their rights to free association and was discriminatory.

Mr Straw yesterday said a review had shown no evidence of "impropriety or malpractice" as a result of a judge being a Freemason and that it would be "disproportionate" to continue with the practice.

The move sparked a furious backlash in 1998 and attempts to make a similar requirement for police officers was dropped in favour of voluntary declarations.

John Hamill, spokesman for the United Grand Union, said: "We are very happy the right thing has been done at long last."