Leading police officers have set up a national Masonic lodge where they can meet in secret in defiance of fears about the influence of the secret society on the criminal justice system.
The new Masonic lodge is led by John Tully, a Metropolitan Police officer
By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor - 9:00PM BST 20 Aug 2011
The founding members include senior officials from the Police Federation, the police staff association, which is currently fighting the Government over its plans to cut budgets.
The new Masonic lodge is led by John Tully, a Metropolitan Police officer, who has given numerous interviews in recent days accusing the Prime Minister of "fighting violence, arson and looting on our city streets with sound-bites". Other founder members include officers from the Metropolitan Police, Essex Police, Thames Valley Police and from other forces including Northumbria, Dyfed Powys, South Wales, South Yorkshire and even a high ranking officer from the Royal Gibraltar Police. The "Sine Favore" Lodge was opened despite the conclusions of a Parliamentary inquiry which warned of public fears that "Freemasonry can have an unhealthy influence on the criminal justice system".
The inquiry followed questions about masonic involvement in the abandonment of an investigation into a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland and with the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, which was disbanded after evidence of police malpractice.
Membership is open to all serving and retired officers across Britain and others working alongside the police, including lawyers, criminologists and even the financial advisers who manage officers' retirement plans.
The idea for the new police Masonic lodge grew out of a series unofficial get-togethers in hotel bars during Police Federation annual conferences.
Masonic rules require members to do all they can to support each other, to look after each other and to keep each others' lawful secrets.
New members of the so-called Brotherhood are blindfolded, a hangman's noose placed around their necks and they are warned their throat will be slit and their tongue torn out if they break their oath. Critics argue this could put them at odds with discharging their duty to serve the public.
The inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 1998 called for a public register of police officers who joined the Freemasons, although in the end the then Labour government proposed that officers could make voluntary disclosures about their membership. Few did.
The new "Sine Favore" lodge, is named after the Latin motto of the Police Federation, "Without Fear, Without Favour". The founders include Police Federation Treasurer Martyn Mordecai, John Giblin, chairman of the Federation's Sergeants Central Committee, and Steve Williams, general secretary of the Federation's Inspectors Central Committee. Earlier this year Mr Giblin told the Federation's annual conference that government ministers "hate the police service" and wanted to "destroy" it.
Other founding members include solicitor Tristan Hallam, a personal injury lawyer who specialises, according to his firm Russell Jones and Walker, in "road traffic accidents and public liability cases for both private clients and associations including the Police Federation".
Mr Hallam said: "Membership of any organisation is a personal choice. Russell Jones & Walker are aware of my membership." Stewart Imbimbo, an ex-Thames Valley police officer and now a senior official at Milton Keynes council, Robert Taylor, a financial adviser, Eric Misselke, director of a police credit union which provides cheap loans, savings accounts and insurance, and the Metropolitan Police's resident criminologist Dr Attilio Grandani.
Dr Grandani sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority's equality and diversity sub-committee and is behind the Met's new controversial statistical-led policing model, which aims to combat areas of high crime as opposed to more thinly spread bobbies-on-the-beat territorial policing. Lodge number 9856 was officially opened by a senior Masonic official, Russell Race.
He is the Metropolitan Grand Master, head of the Grand Lodge of London, a corporate financier and chairman of a construction firm behind the huge Westfield shopping centre in west London and The Pinnacle office development, which, when complete, will be the tallest building in the City of London.
The lodge is based at 10 Duke Street in central London, which is also the headquarters of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree, one of the most important and mysterious bodies in international Masonic circles, which has an elite membership of only 75 people. The building, known as Grand East by Masons, contains the "Black Room", the "Red Room" and a "Chamber of Death", used for Masonic rituals.
The Police Federation last night refused to discuss whether any of its officials had disclosed their involvement with Freemasonary. A spokesman said: "Being a member of any organisation is a matter for the individual, so long as membership of that organisation does not compromise their duties and responsibilities as a police officer." Lodge Secretary Mr Tully, vice chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation refused to comment.