Starr failed as prosecutor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 1999, 12:00am

Regarding your 'Letter From The Editor' on January 11, I do not agree that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was necessary under the rule of law.

It is important to remember that the rule of law includes the notion of prosecutorial discretion.

This means that not every violation of the law should result in the prosecution of the perpetrator.

If every legal rule were strictly enforced, life would be unliveable.

Law enforcers are trained, properly, not to prosecute violations of the law when prosecution would serve no purpose. Thus, for example, if there is a law against jaywalking and a person is seen by a policeman jaywalking on an empty street at 2am, the policeman should exercise his prosecutorial discretion and leave the jaywalker in peace. Most law enforcers sensibly use their discretion in this way.

Kenneth Starr failed to exercise prosecutorial discretion when he pursued Mr Clinton for alleged lies in a deposition relating to the Paula Jones case. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives similarly failed to use their discretion when they voted to impeach the President. As a result, the US Government has been made ridiculous. This is not the fault of Bill Clinton, and he should not resign his position because of it.

Richard Nixon's case was very different. The prosecutor properly acted on the evidence of the Watergate break-in, because it related to an attempt to influence the outcome of the election process. This was an issue that struck at the heart of democracy in America. Bill Clinton's case has no such relation to the functioning of the government.