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Freemason 'closed shop' blocked me, says barrister

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The Western Mail, Wales

Freemason 'closed shop' blocked me, says barrister

August 20, 2003

Martin Shipton, The Western Mail

A BARRISTER claims his application to become a judge has been turned down because he is not a freemason.

Roger Everest says he was told 30 years ago that he would never get on in the legal profession after turning down an invitation to join the Dinas Llandaff lodge of the Freemasons in Cardiff.

Last week the 64-year-old was informed by the director of judicial appointments at the Department for Constitutional Affairs that he was not being appointed a circuit judge.

Earlier this year Mr Everest, who practises from chambers at Pontyclun near Cardiff, had a claim that his career had been blighted by his non-membership of the freemasons rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.

Yesterday he said, "The judiciary in South Wales is a closed shop which I believe excludes ethnic minorities, women and men who are not part of a masonic network.

"After over 30 years as a practising barrister on the Wales and Chester circuit with hundreds of satisfied clients - not one of whom has ever made a complaint against me - I am furious never to have been offered the opportunity to sit as a judge.

"Through The Western Mail I call on the Labour Government to appoint an eminent and impartial privy councillor to investigate the many miscarriages of justice in South Wales - especially the wrongful convictions that followed the murders of Lynette White and Mr and Mrs Tooze - and to publish a register naming judges who have ever been masons. Judges should be appointed on their merit as lawyers, independent of their standing among masons."

Mr Everest said he planned to meet his MP Dr Kim Howells to discuss the matter.

He added, "It is my firm belief that there is a masonic connection with the miscarriages of justice that have occurred in South Wales."

In February 1998, the Home Office committed itself to establishing public registers of Freemasons in the judiciary and the police.

In a response to a report written by the Home Affairs select committee, the Home Office stated, "The Home Secretary proposes to make a formal request to the United Grand Lodge (the governing body of freemasonry in England and Wales) that they provide on a regional basis consistent with the regional structure of the Lodges, the names and identifying occupations and other necessary details of those who are or who become freemasons in the specified professions and occupations.

"If the United Grand Lodge is unwilling or unable to comply with this request, or to comply only partially (for example because it does not itself have the data in the required form) the government will initially make arrangements for registers to be opened for all the specified professions and occupations. All would be invited to register. Although at this stage a failure to return information would not of itself be a breach of conditions of employment, any nil returns would be shown as such.

"The government will consult on where the registers should be available but in any event it believes that they should be publicly available.

"The government will address the need for legislation having regard to the extent of compliance with voluntary registers, once established."

John Hamill, director of communications for the United Grand Lodge said, "The Home Office did not pursue the idea of registers because of the incorporation of human rights legislation into UK law. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights forbids discrimination against minorities.

"When a straw poll was done of judges several years ago, less than five per cent were freemasons and none of those responsible for judicial appointments were."

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