Law allows the seizure of journalists' books and files

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 December, 1999, 12:00am

Anti-graft officers who raided Apple Daily's Tseung Kwan O offices on Monday were armed with rarely used warrants allowing the seizure of journalists' notebooks, contact numbers and computer files, the ICAC said.

Five of the total of 10 warrants signed by High Court Judge Thomas Gall were obtained under Section 85 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance.

The section governs 'applications for a warrant to seize journalistic material'. Such a warrant must be issued by either a District or High Court judge. It gives investigators the power to enter premises 'for the purpose of searching for or seizing material which is known or suspected to be journalistic material'.

The five special warrants are understood to have pin-pointed specific offices and individuals inside the offices.

The other five normal search warrants - also signed by Mr Justice Gall, but which can be issued by a magistrate - were obtained under Section 17 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. Entitled 'Further Powers of Search', the section authorises ICAC officers to enter any premises where there is anything 'which is, or contains evidence of an offence under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and search such premises'.

Contrary to earlier reports, the Independent Commission Against Corruption did not have to return to court to obtain new warrants.

A source said: 'They were armed with all the warrants required when they arrived. They couldn't have gone in without the specific warrant to seize journalistic material.' The raid by a team of 19 ICAC officers, including members of the commission's Computer Forensics Section and Financial Investigations Group, is thought to have lasted more than three hours.