Journalistic material 'not ICAC target'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 January, 2000, 12:00am

Journalistic material seized from Apple Daily did not interest graftbusters, who were looking only for information helpful to their criminal investigation, a court heard yesterday.

Kevin Zervos, for the Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, also told the Court of Appeal all anti-graft officers had a constant power of seizure.

'What the ICAC is required to obtain from a court is the authorisation from the court to enter and search,' Mr Zervos said.

The body secured that on November 25, when Mr Justice Thomas Gall issued two search warrants against Apple Daily, he said.

The validity of the warrants, under challenge from the newspaper, was upheld by Mr Justice Gareth Lugar-Mawson last month. Apple is appealing.

Mr Zervos conceded one of the warrants did not empower any seizure but argued 'we really didn't have to have [that]'.

The other warrant, which he said authorised entry, search and seizure of journalistic material, was enough.

The warrants purported to empower officers to enter Apple's Tseung Kwan O offices, where they were to search for, seize and retain 'material likely to be relevant to' their probe into an alleged bribes-for-reports racket said to involve police communications officers.

'The Commissioner of the ICAC is not interested in journalistic material,' Mr Zervos said.

'What he is interested in is collecting whatever information and evidence that can be obtained for criminal offences.' Regarding the seizure of journalistic material to which special provisions applied, Mr Zervos said: 'The ICAC is obliged to, and did in this case, go to a judge of the Court of First Instance for a warrant.' He said Mr Justice Gall's power was so wide that he could authorise seizure of any material.

'A Court of First Instance judge is a senior member of the Judiciary and that gives extra judicial scrutiny,' he said.

Investigators seized a number of items, including two computers and classified police documents during a raid on November 29. They remain sealed pending the outcome of the case.

The hearing continues tomorrow.