THE ICAC has given permission for up to 25 surveillance officers to testify in a court hearing. It is believed to be the first time such a high number of undercover agents have been allowed to give formal evidence. Because of the case's importance - and the need to protect the identity of the operatives - the Independent Commission Against Corruption is liaising with the Legal Department and the Judiciary for special court arrangements. These might include screens to shroud witnesses from the public gallery. ICAC chiefs are also hoping the officers can get to court without being seen. Lawyers will probably be asked to demand constraints so artists and journalists can neither sketch the officers nor describe their appearance. Details of the case cannot be published for legal reasons. The ICAC's willingness to co-operate in the case is being cited as further evidence of a warming in relations between agencies. 'They have gone out on a limb with this,' said one police source. 'It is quite a major thing for them to do. Obviously, there will have to be special arrangements but we are very pleased.' It is believed senior police and the ICAC have been meeting regularly during the past year to discuss the matter. In the past, surveillance officers have given testimony to a limited extent but never in such numbers. ICAC acting director of investigations, Daniel Lee Ming-chak, confirmed the officers would testify. 'We have worked very hard on this case over many years,' he said. 'It has taken up considerable ICAC and police resources. We went through some painstaking discussions and negotiations. 'As I understand it, there will need to be special arrangements put in place so as to not identify our officers. If it was a minor case, we would not risk compromising our people but in this case . . . we consider passing on surveillance evidence.' Mr Lee said the ICAC had a 'sizeable surveillance team' but refused to give exact figures. Last year, the ICAC revealed it wanted to improve training and support for undercover agents and surveillance officers because of increasing pressures on them. ICAC Assistant Director (Operations) Tony Godfrey said it was imperative to take a fresh look at guidelines to ensure successful operations - especially given the stressful nature of undercover duties and the difficulties operatives faced at the end of investigations.