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On Wednesday 18 December 1996 I was questioned for two hours by eleven Committee members. Ten were men. Eight said they were not Freemasons. One was a Freemason but said he had not attended any lodge for over 20 years.
The Committee’s official report shows that I answered 144 questions. It was a demanding experience though not unpleasant, the examination benign but rigorous and robust. I had only a few sharp words with one member - not the Freemason. Overall I felt the Committee was making a genuine effort to gather information, as impartially as possible, about the brotherhood’s influence not just in the police and judiciary but in British society as a whole.
In eight more hearings spread over two months, the Committee examined 14 further witnesses including the Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern) and representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers, other police organizations, the Magistrates Association and the Law Society. The Committee’s report prints the entire hearings and a welter of correspondence from other people with a personal or professional interest. Spokespersons for public institutions and professional bodies tended to give a know-nothing yet ‘best of all possible worlds’ response to the suggestion that Freemasonry was prevalent or powerful among their workforces or memberships, but other contributors gave accounts that wholly supported the negative views that Stephen Knight and I had voiced years before.
I strongly recommend that anyone who wishes to plunge deeper into this morass reads the entire report. It contains the testimony of the two final witnesses, the then Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, Commander Michael Higham RN, and its librarian, John Hamill.
Their session was far more peppery than mine, for they were confronted by tricky questions about specific cases of wrongdoing that I had raised in my evidence. In particular Commander Higham did his best to rebut allegations that other Freemasons had committed misconduct so gross that, if true, amounted to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Here is an edited extract from my submission on what I called, ‘A Quintessential Masonic Scandal’ that proved ‘the Craft is still able to play a debilitating role in Britain’s police - to the detriment of innocent citizens who are not Masons and at a grotesque cost to public funds’:
In 1988 a Leicester store owner and his adult son were staying at a hotel in Blackburn. Before going to bed they felt like a drink but it was now around midnight and the main bar was closed. However, on the ground floor they discovered a cash bar was still serving drinks, so they bought two pints of bitter and stayed by the bar.
At this point several burly men in dinner jackets told them they had no right to be drinking there and ordered them out. The father and son had no idea what had provoked this outburst but they said they would just drink up and go. The other men said that if they did not leave immediately, they would call the police. The father responded, ‘Then call the police!’, to which some of the men responded, ‘We are the police!’, pulled out what they claimed were warrant cards and quickly proceeded to beat and kick the daylights out of them.
Neither visitor weighed much over ten stone, whereas two of their assailants each weighed at least fifteen stone. The four men who later claimed they had been restraining the father from chucking one of them over a balcony weighed a total of 54 stone. The father was convinced they were trying to throw him over the balcony.
The pair were shocked to discover that they were arrested, not their assailants. They were taken to Blackburn’s central police station, charged with actual bodily harm and assaulting police officers, and kept in the cells overnight. The following morning they were freed on bail and allowed to return to the hotel, only to discover their rooms had been cleared and all their property seized. The management said it was refusing to release the property until they had paid £500 for the damage they had allegedly caused to the hotel and to two of their assailants.
They agreed to pay £180 just to get their keys and property, then, battered and dishevelled, they made their way to the car park. When they got there they saw that their car had been entered by key, its contents disturbed, its hubcaps removed and all its tyres deflated. After spending hours inflating their tyres with no help from the hotel, they drove back to Leicester to notify their solicitors, get urgent medical attention, and get their widespread injuries photographed and recorded. These proved to be severe.
It was months before their solicitors received a bundle of witness statements from Lancashire telling an unrelenting account of how, without provocation, the pair had viciously attacked half a dozen men, including the hotel manager, merely because they had been asked to leave a private function. The father and son knew the entire case was a farrago of lies. Even so, it constituted a very serious case which, if it were to succeed, could put them in jail for eighteen months.
Their solicitors were bemused not only by stark contradictions in the evidence but by the fact that, even at committal, none of the statements named the function which the witnesses had been attending. Such an omission was extraordinary, especially as the alleged cause of the affray was the visitors’ violent refusal to leave the function. It took six months before the CPS’s Burnley office disgorged the information that it had been a Masonic affair ‘organized by wives of some of the members’.
When the case came to court in February 1989 the prosecution evidence repeatedly caused the jury to laugh out loud. The witnesses contradicted themselves, and each other, about where they were when they saw what, and they wholly failed to explain how two slight and weak men could have inflicted so many injuries on so many huge and fit physiques. What is more, all the injuries alleged by the Victims’ were medically unproved. One who had been threatening to sue the father and son for losing an eye came up with nothing better than a hospital casualty report written several hours after the affray, saying he had a slight abrasion of his eye but still had perfect vision.
The prosecution conceded that almost all the ‘victims’ were police officers (most still serving) and that the lodge to which they all belonged was essentially a police lodge: the Victory. The function was indeed a private ‘Ladies’ Night’, but there were no signs to that effect at the entrance to the function room, so how could the visitors have been expected to know? The investigating police officer had made no attempt to find anyone who might support the visitors’ account. Only during his cross-examination did it emerge that this officer was himself a Mason. So was the hotel manager who was a member of the same Victory Lodge. The jury rejected the idea that the two skinny Leicester men, who had demonstrably suffered severe beatings, had attacked so many huge policemen. It found the father and son not guilty. The verdict’s obvious implication was that their Masonic accusers had been lying and should have been in the dock instead: for perjury and conspiracy, as well as GBH. The judge awarded costs to the defendants.
While they tried to recover from this ordeal, their solicitors began to seek civil redress against seven individual Victory Lodge members, the hotel group and the Chief Constable of Lancashire. Their final statement of claim would allege wrongful arrest, assault, malicious prosecution, conspiracy to injure and libel.
As they developed the case for damages, they naturally looked for assistance to an investigation which had been carried out by the Police Complaints Authority. For years they had no idea what it had found out, but eventually got wind of testimony the PCA had gathered from the hotel’s night porter which wholly supported the father and son’s account. Despite its clear and fundamental relevance to the civil case, the PCA stubbornly refused to part with it or to divulge the porter’s whereabouts. It also cited ‘public interest immunity’. When the civil judge considered this argument, he threw it out. But this was in 1995, five years after the PCA inquiry had interviewed the porter.
During those five years the solicitors had pursued every route to gather evidence to support their case, so not having had early access to the porter had cost them tens of thousands of pounds in wasted time and effort. Back in 1989 their private detective had discovered a woman who had also been on the staff and saw the entire affair. She also confirmed the victims’ account of unprovoked assault by members of Victory Lodge, but was said to be too scared to get involved.
The action was eventually settled out of court. The father and son received a total of some £170,000, the bulk of which was paid not by the Masons themselves but by the Chief Constable of Lancashire on the technical grounds that, when they were perpetrating their assault and falsely accusing their victims of assaulting them, they had been acting as police officers - rather than as Masons!
In my view it is outrageous that the public should be expected to pay anything towards righting what appears to be a thoroughly Masonic wrong, and that, until now, the citizens of Lancashire have not even been made aware of the decision.
Grand Secretary Higham defended the conduct of the Victory Lodge, its members and guests. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barbara Mills, and the Lancashire Constabulary also chose to defend the role of their respective organizations in writing. This obliged me to refute each of their contributions. If you are gripped by the story so far, you will find the exchanges gripping too.
In March 1997 the Committee published its conclusions.
These dwelt at length on the Blackburn Victory Lodge case and appended the entire correspondence. Its dilemma over that scandal was typical of the conclusions as a whole: so hedged and ditched that it is impossible to shorten for the sake of easy reading:
Whilst accepting that it is difficult to establish direct lines of Masonic influence through common membership of lodges, it is even more difficult to establish the nature of connections between individuals, who, whether or not they were Freemasons, and/or present at a particular function, may have known each other anyway and whilst not directly involved may still have had a bearing on the conduct of the investigation or the prosecution. However, it can be established from this account that a perception of secrecy spawned a number of allegations and that may or may not prove to have been unfounded. If membership of the Freemasons were more openly known, and lists of lodges were publicly available, it would have facilitated any attempt to unravel any suspected Masonic network or enabled any suspicions to be allayed before they had taken root.
Overall the Committee concluded:
There is a large number of Freemasons within the criminal justice system, but the numbers themselves give no general cause for concern…
Where it is not entirely groundless, most or all of the evidence alleging Masonic corruption in the field of policing is largely circumstantial, in the sense that it involves assuming that steps taken by individuals who were Freemasons, in respect of others who were also Freemasons, were taken because both individuals were Freemasons rather than because the individuals knew each other or for some other reason …
There is a widespread public perception that Freemasonry can have an unhealthy influence on the criminal justice system, and we certainly believe that one of the main reasons for free-masonry’s poor public image is a perception that it is a secret society …
The Committee’s most important conclusion was reserved till the end:
We recommend that police officers, magistrates, judges, and crown court prosecutors should be required to register membership of any secret society and that the record should be available publicly. However, it is our firm belief that the better solution lies in the hand of Freemasonry itself. By openness and disclosure, all suspicion would be removed, and we would welcome the taking of such steps by the United Grand Lodge.
It is now ten years since these conclusions were reached. I’m sorry to have to say that while the United Grand Lodge has gone some way to improving its image (hiring an affable and effective public relations consultant who is not a Freemason), Parliament has notably failed to act as recommended.
There is still no national requirement that policemen, judges or prosecutors register membership of Freemasonry. Some police forces have set up arrangements so that officers can make a private declaration. Magistrates do have to declare Masonic membership. Judges are offered a similar opportunity but nothing is compulsory and not even their voluntary disclosures are made available to the public.
In short, almost all the MPs’ recommendations have been sidelined, ignored, blocked or just forgotten. In many ways a benchmark for how parliamentary committees should investigate issues of public concern, their findings deserve a better fate. It will probably take another sensational expose of Masonic criminality before those findings are resurrected.
If that ever happens, it will be due in no small measure to the pioneering work of Stephen Knight.
Freemasonry, although its leaders strenuously deny it, is a secret society. In England and Wales alone it has more than 600,000 initiates, with a further 100,000 in Scotland and between 50,000 and 70,000 in Ireland. All the members of this extraordinary Brotherhood are male. All except those who are second-, third-, or fourth-generation Freemasons, who may join at eighteen, are over the age of twenty-one. All have sworn on pain of death and ghastly mutilation not to reveal masonic secrets to outsiders, who are known to brethren as the ‘profane’.* (#ulink_f709c69d-037c-5db9-8326-9f9a5102445b)
The headquarters of the Brotherhood in England and Wales is in London, where the massive bulk of Freemasons Hall squats at the corner of Great Queen Street and Wild Street like a gigantic elephant’s footstool. This is the seat of the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body of the 8,000-plus Lodges in England and Wales. These Lodges, of which there are another 1,200-odd under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and about 750 under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, carry out their secret business and ritual in a deliberately cultivated atmosphere of mystery in masonic Temples. Temples might be purpose built, or might be rooms in hotels or private buildings temporarily converted for masonic use. Many town halls up and down the country, for example, have private function rooms used for masonic rituals, as does New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.
The Grand Lodges control what is known as ‘craft’ Freemasonry, and brethren often refer to the Brotherhood as ‘the Craft’. Craft Freemasonry covers the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. The vast majority of Freemasons rise no higher than Master Mason, and most are under the impression that there are no higher degrees. Even many of those who go on to become Royal Arch Masons, governed not by Grand Lodge but by Grand Chapter, have no idea that the masonic ladder extends a further thirty rungs above those on the third who believe they have already reached the top.
There is an important distinction to be made between Freemasonry, which is the movement as a whole, and Freemasons, which describes any number of individual Masons. This appears self-evident, but confusion of the two ideas has led to some gross misunderstandings. Take the death of Captain William Morgan in America in 1826. There is evidence to suggest that Morgan, having revealed certain masonic secrets in his book Freemasonry Exposed, was kidnapped and murdered by Freemasons. There have been suggestions that Mozart, a Mason, was poisoned by members of the Brotherhood, allegedly for betraying masonic secrets in The Magic Flute. And in 1888, the Jack the Ripper murders in the East End of London were perpetrated according to masonic ritual. Purely because people, wilfully or innocently, have regarded the words Freemasons and Freemasonry as interchangeable, these deaths have frequently been blamed, not on various individual Freemasons, but on the whole Brotherhood.
Some people, even today, look upon Freemasonry as an underground movement devoted to murder, terrorism and revolution. Hence, we read of Freemasonry as a worldwide conspiracy and watch, through the clouded vision of certain woefully mistaken writers, the whole of world history since the Renaissance unfold according to masonic machinations.
Freemasonry is not a worldwide secret society. It is a secret society that, originating in Britain, now has independent offshoots in most of the non-Communist world. And although the British Grand Lodges recognize more than a hundred Grand Lodges (forty-nine of them in the USA), they have no control over them, and most reflect the character and political complexion of the country in which they operate. Far from being revolutionary, there is no organization more reactionary, more Establishment-based, than British Freemasonry. Its members derive benefit from the Brotherhood only so long as the status quo is maintained.
Nevertheless, Freemasonry has a potent influence on life in Britain - for both good and ill.
The Brotherhood’s stated aims of morality, fraternity and charity are well known. Indeed, circumspect and even secretive about all of Masonry’s other doings, the average member of the Brotherhood will be eloquent on the generous donations made by United Grand Lodge and individual Lodges to charity, both masonic and profane. In 1980, for instance, Grand Lodge gave away £931,750, of which just over £300,000 was for non-masonic causes. In addition, many thousands of Masons and their relatives have benefited from the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (’for maintaining, clothing and educating the daughters of Freemasons’), the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, the Royal Masonic Hospital (’for Freemasons, their wives, widows and dependent children’), and the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many others have suffered because of Freemasonry entering into areas of life where, according to all its publicly proclaimed principles, it should never intrude. The abuse of Freemasonry causes alarming miscarriages of justice. It is one of the aims of this book to look at some of the effects of this abuse.
The Brotherhood is neither a commendation nor a condemnation of Freemasonry. Nor is it another wearisome and misnamed ‘exposure’ of Masonry’s no longer secret rituals. Those rituals, or most of them, can be found in public libraries. In this respect the book differs from the vast majority of books written on the subject in the past 260 years. There is much here that will be unknown to the general reader, but all the verifiable facts I have obtained are presented in full, whether they are favourable or unfavourable to Masonry. Where I enter into speculation - and I do this as little as possible - I make it clear.
I am a journalist. From the beginning, I have thought of this investigation into Freemasonry in modern society as an extended piece of journalism. It is a factual report researched intensively over a relatively short period but because I was working without the benefit of a secretary or researchers the report does contain gaps. My network of contacts within Freemasonry, although extensive, represented a tiny fraction of all the Freemasons in this country. And the secret workings of Freemasonry, its use in manipulating this deal here, in getting someone promotion there, in influencing the actions of police, lawyers, judges, Civil Servants, is meat for a lifetime of study. I have therefore had to concentrate on some areas of society at the expense of others. I have devoted most time and energy to the areas of greatest concern. I trust readers will understand if this plan leaves questions where they feel there should be answers. I shall welcome comments, information and observations from anyone who has something to say. The updating process is already in hand and I expect to be able to expand and revise for as many editions as the public requires. Perhaps a better sub-title might therefore be Freemasonry: An Interim Report, because in addition to being wide-ranging and complicated (though always intensely fascinating), the nature of Freemasonry is ‘changing - and the investigator has to face the problem of organized secrecy and ‘disinformation’.
This latter can be crass and easily spotted, like the information passed to me covertly by a high-ranking Freemason posing as a nark, which said that at a certain degree a Candidate was required to defecate on a crucifix. This absurd sort of tactic is aimed at the gullible anti-Mason who is on the lookout for scandal and sensation, and who will believe anything that shows the Brotherhood in an unfavourable light. Such writers do exist, and in some number as I have found in the ten months I have had to prepare the report. These are the people who repeat what they are told without checking on facts and sources, and who ignore all evidence which runs counter to their own argument. And it is they who fall for the kind of disinformation tactic which several Freemasons attempted to practise upon me.* (#ulink_8044ab3f-a503-5419-bed2-7563a38c8078) The crucifix story is just one example. There are others - including the yarn, gravely whispered to me in the corner of the Freemasons Arms just along the road from Freemasons Hall in London, that Prince Charles had been secretly initiated into a north London Lodge that practised Black Magic; and the fabrication, in support of which someone with access to Grand Lodge notepaper forged some impressive correspondence, that both main political parties had approached Grand Lodge prior to leadership elections to discuss the person most favourably looked upon by the Masons. Nonsense.
Had I accepted any of this disinformation and published it, as was the intention of those who went to such lengths to feed it to me, the whole of this book would have been open to ridicule. What the disinformers evidently most desired was that The Brotherhood should be dismissed as irresponsible and unreliable and quickly forgotten.
I began my enquiry with two questions: Does Freemasonry have an influence on life in Britain, as many people believe? And if so, what kind of influence and in which areas of society? I felt from the beginning that it was important, if possible, to approach the subject from a position of absolute neutrality. In my favour was that I was neither a Mason nor an anti-Mason. But I had studied the subject in the early 1970s for my book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, and had received a large volume of letters from readers of that book, containing information, questions, theories and arguments on a range of topics associated with Freemasonry. So I did not have the open mind of one completely ignorant. I had already reached certain conclusions. Because of this, as the hundreds of Masons I have interviewed since the spring of 1981 can testify, I probed all the more deeply for evidence that might upset those conclusions, in order to obtain as balanced a view of Freemasonry in modern Britain as I could.
But when I began writing, I very quickly discovered the impossibility of complete neutrality. I had seen, heard and discovered things that had made an impression upon me. It would have been a negation of my responsibility to the reader to deny her or him access to these impressions: I was, after all, carrying out the enquiry on behalf of those readers. Inevitably, I have reached conclusions based on the mass of new data now available to me.
Two months after I began research on this book, the United Grand Lodge of England issued a warning in its Quarterly Communication to Lodges, reminding brethren of the rule in their ‘Antient Charges’ concerning the ban on discussing internal affairs with outsiders. One Royal Arch Mason of thirty years’ standing told me it was the first of its kind in his experience. The Quarterly Communication, according to one informant, is ‘the method by which Freemasonry at its supreme level gets down to the lower levels’.
The Communication of 10 June 1981 contained this:
We have nothing to hide and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but we object to having our affairs investigated by outsiders. We would be able to answer many of the questions likely to be asked, if not all of them, but we have found that silence is the best practice. Comment or correction only breeds further enquiry and leads to the publicity we seek to avoid. We respect and do not comment on the attitudes of other organizations. It is unfortunate that sometimes they are less respectful of ours. If therefore any of you is approached by any reporter… you will only be carrying out our practice if you gently decline to comment. Do not be drawn into argument or defence, however … Remember the Antient Charge, ‘Behaviour in Presence of Strangers, Not Masons’: You shall be cautious in your words and carriage, that the most penetrating stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a discourse, and manage it prudently for the honour of the worshipful fraternity…
This warning was issued by no less a figure than the Pro Grand Master, Brother the Rt Hon the Earl Cadogan, sitting as president of the Brotherhood’s Board of General Purposes. The reminder of possible disciplinary action against Freemasons who contravene Antient Charge VI.4 was not provoked solely by the United Grand Lodge’s concern about my own enquiries. London Weekend Television had recently discussed in its Credo programme whether Freemasonry was compatible with Christianity, and the fact that several Freemasons of grand rank* (#ulink_942eb3b6-d0a2-569f-8e20-80f3cc4d2565) had taken part in the programme had caused a storm within the Brotherhood.
A non-Mason such as I, working for information against this kind of organized secrecy, newly reinforced by stern warnings, would be hard put to obtain anything in certain areas of the subject without the assistance of at least some genuinely motivated ‘moles’.
I was fortunate to have established within a few months an entire network of moles. The information this led me to was as startling as it was disturbing.
After my first book appeared in 1976, the London Evening News, which serialized it, received a letter from the Freemason director of a chain of bookshops, stating that he was so enraged by evidence I had produced linking Freemasons to the Jack the Ripper case that not only would he physically attack me if we should ever meet (referring to me as ‘this specimen’), he would never stock the book and would do all in his power to wreck its distribution to shops not owned by him. To some extent he succeeded. Although after the serialization it was in high demand, and quickly climbed to the top of the bestseller lists, I was soon receiving letters from would-be readers asking where it could be bought. Despite continuing demand for the book (it was reprinted in 1977, 1978, 1979, twice in 1981 and again in 1982) it cannot be found in branches of this particular chain. Many Freemason managers of other bookshops refuse point-blank to stock it.
Many previous books on Freemasonry have been published. Many, chiefly those by Masons themselves, are still in print after several years. It is interesting to see how many outsiders’ works on the Brotherhood have gone quickly out of print despite continuing demand for them.
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