The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Osman v United Kingdom, decided in October 1998, has proved very controversial. Its implications for the UK law of negligence appear to be immense. Not the least of the complexities associated with the decision is the widespread perception that the reasoning of the Court is extremely difficult to understand, indeed, that it is at times contradictory. This article subjects the Osman judgment to close analysis. It explains the Court’s approach to Article 6(1) by reference to the way in which the Strasbourg court has over many years developed its case law on this provision. The article includes an overview of the way in which, so far, the decision has been deployed in UK law. The author suggests that, whatever about the actual result of the case, the reasoning of the European Court in Osman is deeply flawed, and that the UK judiciary should be mindful of this fact when considering its deployment in domestic law.
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