The Independent Commission Against Corruption does not easily accept restrictions on its sweeping powers. Over the years it has fought tooth and nail in the courts to preserve them. So the organisation's decision to challenge last week's ruling concerning its raids on newspaper offices comes as no surprise. As the ICAC was quick to point out, the appeal will give the higher courts an opportunity to clarify this area of the law. But its reasons for proceeding with the case clearly go beyond a selfless desire to clear up perceived legal ambiguities. This is a bid to ensure its powers to search for and seize material from journalists remain as wide and unfettered as possible. Last week, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann ruled that the ICAC was 'wrong in fact and law' to seek search warrants for raids on seven newspapers, including the South China Morning Post. In a detailed judgment he ruled that the anti-graft body had improperly used intrusive methods that impinged upon press freedom. It had opted to make immediate use of draconian search and seizure powers that were only to be employed as a last resort. The ruling was widely welcomed in Hong Kong. The judge emphasised the importance of protecting press freedom and set out guidelines - based on legal precedents - for future investigations. But the ICAC questions what appear to be perfectly reasonable restrictions on its powers. Indeed, it does not believe the courts should be able to step in and revoke search warrants, even if the decision to issue them was 'wrong in law'. This is one of the arguments put forward by the organisation - and it is expected to feature in the appeal. It is dressed up in legal jargon and Latin terminology. The question is technical in the extreme and involves tortuous interpretation of various rules of the High Court. But it comes down to an attempt to prevent the courts from intervening. And it is an argument the ICAC has raised before. As one judge previously commented, it would be surprising if the courts were not permitted to revoke search warrants that had been wrongly issued. These are matters that the Court of Appeal judges will now consider afresh. Whatever their decision, the case has raised new questions about the way in which the ICAC goes about combating corruption. There is no doubt that during its 30 year history, the ICAC has served Hong Kong well. Its greatest achievement has been in transforming our city from a place where corruption was part of everyday life to one where it is almost universally viewed as an evil. In order to succeed against this secretive and - at the time - pervasive crime, it was necessary for the ICAC to be granted sweeping powers. But many of the considerations that applied in 1974 no longer exist. We live in a different world. The prime objectives of the ICAC at its inception have been achieved. And the nature of corruption has changed. It is questionable whether the anti-graft body still needs all of its draconian powers and whether they are compatible with the rights protected by the Bill of Rights and Basic Law. From time to time certain powers are challenged in the courts. But a more comprehensive approach may now be needed. Also, now that the focus of anti-corruption activities has switched to international and cross-border crimes, operational changes might also be required. When it was founded, the ICAC's prime target was the police. Now, it is increasingly working on joint operations with police officers. A new ethos and perhaps a different mode of operation is worthy of consideration. The 30th anniversary of the ICAC would seem a good time to conduct a thorough review of its operations, one that would be best handled by a judicial panel. We still need an independent body to tackle corruption - but one that is suited more to the demands of 2004 than those of 1974.