Masonry is very powerful among solicitors in England and Wales. According to a survey in which I questioned all the solicitors in twenty selected towns, and a cross-section of London solicitors, it is less prevalent in the capital than it is in the provinces. This assessment of the situation from a Cambridgeshire lawyer who, although not a Mason, knows a great many Freemasons and receives regular unofficial briefings from members of the Brotherhood, rings true:

In London there are plenty of other things to do. Life is much more impersonal and Freemasonry is not necessarily going to do a solicitor a great deal of good. What is more, good solicitors are so thin on the ground that if you are really good, you don't need to be a Freemason to get your clients. And if you're not any good, being a Freemason is not going to impress your client.

Solicitors, especially those outside London, have a particular incentive for becoming Freemasons. By the rules of their profession they are forbidden to advertise. They are therefore reliant upon passing trade, which is often sparse, and recommendation, which is hard to get. I have interviewed countless solicitors who joined Freemasonry purely to get on close terms with the businessmen and worthies of their community, and to gain personal contact with police, JPs, magistrate's clerks and any local or visiting members of the judiciary - men they could rely upon either to put business their way or whose good offices would be professionally valuable.

One young ex-Home Counties solicitor told me that after he began to practise in his town he was regularly advised by local Freemasons to join the Brotherhood. He resisted because of his religious convictions - he was a practising Christian - and because he was repelled by the idea of being unable to succeed on his own merits alone. But business was so bad that he eventually relented to the continuing pressure of his colleagues in the firm and to their promises that by becoming a Mason he would get all the clients he needed. He said: 'I was initiated and within days clients began to contact me out of the blue. Within a few weeks I had more than I could cope with. That went on for some months, but it troubled me, and I left Masonry before being made up to the second degree. Most of my clients melted away as fast as they had appeared. They were all Masons. So I moved to London. You don't need Masonry or advertising if you're good here - there's more litigation than all the London solicitors can deal with.'

The governing body of the 40,735 solicitors in England and Wales is the Law Society, which has its headquarters at 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2. The Society controls the admission of solicitors and the education for trainee solicitors. Although no solicitor may practise without certification by the Law Society, membership of the Society is not compulsory. At the end of March 1982, 33,226 practising solicitors were members of the Society and 7,509 were not.

The Law Society is one of the most masonic institutions in the world. This has proved an almost insurmountable obstacle to certain 'profane' individuals involved either willingly or unwillingly in litigation with Masons, because it is the Law Society whose job it is - with the Department

of Health and Social Security - to decide who will be awarded legal aid and who will not. It also dictates the conditions on which legal aid is granted in each separate case. The difficulty is compounded if the subject of any proposed action by an applicant for legal aid is not only a Mason but a solicitor as well. There are cases where the decision whether or not an individual should be granted financial aid in order to pursue his case or defend himself against a case being brought against him has been in the hands of close colleagues of the applicant's counsel.

A great many of the sixty-odd members of the Law Society Council as well as a high proportion of the Society's staff and committees - one estimate puts it as high as ninety per cent of all male staff above the age of thirty - are ardent Freemasons.

I have thousands of papers on one case alone, a case so well documented it can be followed in minute detail. It involves one of the many masonic members of the Law Society Council, who had personally committed an act of gross negligence which caused one of his clients to lose a £100,000 inheritance. Deliberate action on the part of several other firms of masonic solicitors - some of the biggest names in the legal profession - acting in collusion with the original solicitor and with each other to cover up the negligence, brought the client to the edge of financial ruin. Having mortgaged his home, spent £15,000 in legal fees to lawyers who deliberately ignored his instructions, wasted valuable time and generated hundreds and hundreds of expensive, unnecessary documents, he was forced to apply to the Law Society, of which his chief opponent was an influential member, for legal aid. Finally, in 1982, after fighting masonic manipulation of the legal aid system for more than a year, and only after a direct appeal to a senior and non-masonic official in the Department of Health and Social Security, which works in tandem with the Law

Society on legal aid applications, he was granted a legal aid certificate - but on extremely onerous conditions. As this case is still not closed, and far from lost following recent unexpected developments in the client's favour, no further details can be disclosed as yet.

The term 'masonic firm' is used more often in the law than in any other profession. This is because there is a greater preponderance of companies which are exclusively run by members of the Brotherhood in this area of society than elsewhere. It refers to those firms of solicitors whose senior partners are, without exception and as part of a deliberate policy, Freemasons. In such firms, and this is equally true in London as in the provinces, most of the junior partners will also be 'on the Square'. Some masonic firms will not allow the possibility of a non-masonic partner. In these cases only existing brethren will be taken on. In some larger masonic firms there will be one, perhaps two, of the junior partners who are not Masons. These non-Masons generally never even suspect the secret allegiance of their fellow partners. At a certain stage in their career they might receive an approach from one of the Brothers within the firm - not a blunt invitation to join, but a subtle implantation of an idea, a curtain twitched gently aside. Usually if this is passed over nothing further will occur. If it is recognized and rebuffed, the non-Mason will probably be actively looking for a partnership elsewhere shortly afterwards, as work becomes unaccountably more demanding and as he finds he no longer seems to measure up to the standard expected of him. Most will not realize that it is the standard which has moved in relation to them rather than vice versa. This does not often occur as the senior men in masonic firms 'have been taught to be cautious', and do not make overtures to outsiders without having first established that the odds are in favour of a sympathetic response.

Many of the largest and most prestigious firms of solicitors in London are masonic firms. During my research for my book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, I was introduced to Ben K, an elderly Royal Arch Freemason who had been a partner of one of these firms for more than thirty years. An avid and jocular Mason, Ben told me often how appalled he was by the frequent misuse of masonic influence, especially in his own profession. He gave me a lot of help in my researches in the early seventies and we have kept in touch since. In 1980, the year before I was commissioned to write The Brotherhood, he mentioned a case which had been brought to his attention by one of his friends at another top London (masonic) firm. This friend was likewise infuriated by the corruption of Masonry's precepts. The case involved blatant misuse of Freemasonry to conceal criminal conduct on the part of a senior partner in another, even more prestigious, masonic firm. At that time I was in the middle of my second novel and was convalescing from a major operation, so I did not follow it up.

In June 1981 I saw Ben again, and asked if he could get me further details. Meanwhile, I went to see the main casualty of the alleged masonic conspiracy. He was visibly shocked at how much I knew of his case. He was also a very frightened man, and told me that he was thinking of joining the Brotherhood himself for his own protection. As a result of harrowing personal experience, he had come to hate the power of Freemasonry, but believed that becoming part of it was his only hope of survival in the highly masonic world of the law. Whether or not he was right in this, it does indicate the tremendous power certain cliques of Masons can exert. It was clear that he wanted very much to speak about his experiences, that his conscience told him he should. But in the end his own sense of self-preservation triumphed and he told me regretfully that he could not help me to publicize the evils which had nearly ruined him.

All was not lost. Ben, my Royal Arch companion, phoned me late in July and said he had 'a little something' for me. We met in the Freemasons Arms in Long Acre that evening. His 'little something' was a bundle of photocopies tied up in red tape: the complete file on the case.

The story begins in 1980 at the offices of one of the most celebrated firms of solicitors in London. A fashionable yet long established company, it counts several well-known members of the nobility among its clients. Only one partner of this firm whom I shall call Gamma Delta LLB, was not a Freemason. Delta, who had been with the company for seven years, handled general litigation.

One of his senior colleagues had to take an unexpected period of leave. Delta was asked to handle the Mason's work during his absence. As he worked through the documents, familiarizing himself with the various cases, Delta became increasingly puzzled. Finally, to his horror, it dawned on him that his absent partner was engaged in corruption on a large scale. The papers made it clear that the solicitor, acting in case after case on behalf of clients seeking compensation from insurance companies, was in fact in league with the insurance companies. He would settle out of court for sums much lower than he and the insurers knew could be obtained, and he would then receive a rake-off from the insurance companies. Delta at first found it impossible to believe. 'I had no idea such things could happen,' he told another of my informants, a client of his colleague and a victim of his deliberate malpractice.

Stunned by what he had found, Delta at first did not know what he should do. At last, having checked and rechecked the papers to make certain there was no other explanation, he approached the senior partner of the firm and showed him what he had found. The senior partner immediately called a partners' meeting - and Delta was sacked on the spot. There was no explanation given, merely that his services had been dispensed with, and within two days he was on the street. Why the partners had not been as horrified as he by the conduct of his criminal colleague he could not imagine. It was only then, when he approached a barrister friend who was a Mason, that he learned that the company he had worked for had, without his ever giving it a moment's consideration, been a masonic firm. He had had the temerity to attempt to expose not a crooked and negligent lawyer, but a crooked and negligent Freemason lawyer. Having been found out, that Freemason was in distress. And his colleagues were all of that mould of Mason which takes it as read that, no matter what qualifying clauses appear in Masonic ritual, a fellow Mason must be extricated from distress at all costs. There was also, of course, the consideration that if the case came into the open, the inevitable publicity would harm the whole company.

The manner in which Delta was dismissed was designed to give him no credence should he talk about the documents he found. When an instant dismissal of that kind occurs in the legal profession, there is usually only one inference: the person sacked has had his hand in the till.

Delta's first move was to approach another of the leading firms in London, another 'big name' company much involved in the world of international finance. The company agreed to act for Delta in his claim against his erstwhile employers for compensation for termination of partnership. But according to an informant within this second company, which also turned out to be a masonic firm, the senior partner of the first company contacted his masonic colleagues at the top level of the second firm, and this firm (this is also documented) dropped Delta like a hot potato. Not only did they drop him after they had agreed to act, they actually then agreed to defend the first firm in any case brought against them by Delta!

Eventually, though, Delta found a solicitor who was not a Mason and, evidently fearing adverse publicity, the original firm settled out of court, paying Delta £50,000 compensation.

But even after he got his money, and set himself up in his own practice elsewhere in the country, Delta was still aware of the potential power of Masonry to ruin him, and decided that the only safe place was within.

This 'if you can't beat 'em . . .' attitude is prevalent, especially among tradesmen and the proprietors of small businesses in all parts of the country.

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