Judicial review guidelines aim to cut number of challenged court decisions

In-house government law-yer Fred Croft has devised new guidelines for administrators, aimed at reducing the number of decisions challenged in court.

Croft, deputy head of litigation, is behind the latest edition of 'Judge over your shoulder', a booklet aimed at highlighting the legal framework for decision-making.

The guidelines were first published in 1987 but have now been revised, updated and expanded, to reflect the increasing scope and incidence of judicial review.

David Hogg, deputy treasury solicitor, says there has been a wholesale change of emphasis in the book.

It used to be aimed at telling administrators how to avoid judicial review, but the new guidance is designed to improve the quality of decision-making, he says.

The book, with a foreword by Sir Robin Butler, is available to civil servants including lawyers, as well as staff in quangos and other agencies.

Sir Robin says the dramatic rise in the number of judicial review challenges is growing.

“At the same time, the awareness of administrative law has greatly increased among civil servants,” he says.

Croft says the guidance is not intended as a substitute for legal advice: “But it ought to set decision-making in its legal context and ensure that warning bells ring and that advice is sought where appropriate.”

“It is certainly not a job-creation scheme,” he says.

'Judge over your shoulder' is proving popular. The first run of 5,000 copies has already sold out.