Judges will no longer have to declare whether they are freemasons when they take office, Jack Straw said yesterday.
The rule requiring them to do so was brought in 11 years ago to ease public concern over possible corruption.
It was originally feared judges who were members of the Order may be inclined to do favours for fellow 'brothers'. The Justice Secretary said yesterday a review of the system for checking appointments had 'shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice'.
Mr Straw also believes they would have won a forthcoming human rights challenge to the registration rules.
The United Grand Lodge of England had made representations to ministers in May and indicated they might seek judicial review of the policy.
The register shows freemasons account for just over one in 20 judges and 1,900 of the 30,000 magistrates in England and Wales, although their names have never been published.
Mr Straw said the rules brought in following recommendations from the Home Affairs Select Committee 'were of a precautionary nature, and intended to maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system'.
However, he admitted the review of the policy operating since 1998 had shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason.
As a result he said 'it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information'.
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