Wednesday 26 May 1999
FREEMASONRY WITHIN the police may have played a “significant” role in the Stalker affair and corruption in the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, MPs have concluded.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published the results yesterday of a two-year inquiry into the influence of masons in public life. The committee quoted several cases of improper interference in police operations and called on the Home Office to speed plans to to disclose which officers were Freemasons.
Voluntary codes requiring judges, police and staff in the Crown Prosecution Service to declare Masonic membership should be toughened and should be accompanied by similar rules for MPs, peers and councillors, the report recommended. The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, should push through his proposals to establish registers of Masonic status.Only three of the country’s 43 police forces have created them.
The committee found that the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, which was disbanded over allegations of malpractice, had five senior members who were Freemasons. The MPs concluded that although Freemasonry was not a primary cause of the problems within the squad, “we cannot entirely exclude the possibility that it may have been a contributory factor”.
Freemasonry was not a significant factor in the Birmingham pub bombings investigations by the squad, but the fact that the stipendiary magistrate was a Mason would have given rise to “justifiable public concern” if it had been known.
Freemasonry may also have been a factor in the Stalker affair, in which John Stalker, former Assistant Chief Constable of Manchester, was removed from an investigation into shoot-to-kill policies allegedly conducted by security forces in Northern Ireland. Seven police officers of the rank of superintendent or above involved in the affair were Masons.
There are about 350,000 Freemasons in England and Wales. They said that pressure to declare membership had led to an “unprecedented” wave of resignations.
COMMONS HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE | CULTS & SECTS | JUDGES (COURT OF LAW) | POLICE
December 30 2016
A police chief who investigated an alleged shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland confided in a diplomat that he was not concerned about a cover-up but “murder, six murders”, newly declassified files show.
There were also behind-the-scenes fears that a Masonic plot within the police against John Stalker could be revealed during one of the most controversial episodes of the Troubles, according to the documents marked “Secret”.
Mr Stalker was asked to investigate the RUC shootings of six people but was removed from the inquiry shortly before it was due to report in 1986.
He was taken off the case at the moment he believed he was about to obtain an MI5 tape of one of the shootings.
Suspended over allegations of associating with criminals, he was later cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated in his job as deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police but his report was never published.
Mr Stalker unexpectedly turned up at the opening of the Irish Centre in Manchester in November 1986, just months after his controversial suspension from the inquiry.
Then Irish ambassador to London Noel Dorr wrote to then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald about a brief private conversation with the police chief at the event.
Mr Stalker complained he never had access to politicians at any stage during this inquiry and was “convinced” had he been allowed to talk to then home secretary Douglas Hurd “he would have got attention to what he was saying”.
“Stalker said that what he was trying as forcefully as he could to bring to attention (‘to shout’) was that what he was concerned with was not the minor question of lying or covering something up – ‘it was murder, six murders’,” Mr Dorr wrote.
“He believed very strongly that if he could have got through to Ministers with this message they would have supported him.”
He added: “Instead he had, at all times, to go through the Chief Constable and the Home Office Inspectorate and they blocked and muffled what he wanted to say.”
At the time, Mr Stalker told the Irish diplomat he had completed reports into five of the six deaths as well as 90% of his report into the RUC and “very much feared now that what he had done will be rewritten by other hands”.
“In general he found the RUC were all right except for some people very near the top who were very much to blame,” wrote Mr Dorr.
It was “sad and ironic” that the force’s opposition to his investigation had damaged it much more than had it co-operated, acknowledged wrongdoing and turned over a new leaf, Mr Stalker said to him.
The classified files also revealed a behind-the-scenes furore over Mr Stalker being photographed at the Irish Centre launch along with Dublin’s then foreign affairs minister Peter Barry.
Secretary of state Tom King summoned a senior Irish official in Belfast and “using very strong language … for some time” let it be known he was extremely shocked to see the photo in the newspapers.
“He said the impact in Northern Ireland was damaging and that the police believed that the minister had deliberately set up the situation to support Stalker and demoralise them,” Mr King told the official, according to the notes.
Some months beforehand in July, a senior Irish official met with Andrew Mackay MP, then parliamentary private secretary to Mr King, for lunch in London.
During the meeting, Mr Mackay – who would later become shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland – said he feared a police plot against Mr Stalker.
“On the Stalker affair, he sincerely hopes that a Masonic or other plot within the police to stifle Stalker will not be revealed,” the MP told the official, according to notes of the meeting.
“If it is, he believes that the implications would be wide-reaching and very serious: certainly involving, he feels, (RUC Chief Constable John) Hermon’s resignation.
“He hoped, rather, that the matter will be resolved in such a way as to allow the contents of the report to be finalised and acted on.”