The Court of Appeal had the jurisdiction to overturn a judgment setting aside ICAC search warrants against the Sing Tao Daily, it was argued yesterday. Senior Counsel Gerard McCoy, for the Independent Commission Against Corruption, told the court the case concerned civil proceedings, contrary to what the anti-graft body had earlier asserted. Philip Dykes SC, for Sing Tao Daily and one of its journalists, Hsu Hiu-yee, had argued last week that, since ICAC lawyers had labelled the proceedings as criminal, there was no express right in Hong Kong law to appeal against the setting aside of the search warrants. But Mr McCoy said yesterday the application for search warrants constituted civil proceedings because it lacked the essential elements of criminal proceedings. 'The general understanding is that criminal proceedings involve formal accusations, demonstrating a guilty mind and that hearsay evidence is not permissible,' Mr McCoy said. The Court of Appeal had an 'inherent jurisdiction' to hear the appeal even though it was not expressly provided for in law. Mr Justice Michael Hartmann ruled last month that the decision to grant the ICAC warrants for the search and seizure of journalistic materials at the Sing Tao Daily's offices was wrong 'in fact and in law'. He set aside the warrant. The ICAC obtained warrants in July covering seven newspapers' offices and the homes of several journalists to investigate the leaking of the identity of a woman in its Witness Protection Programme. Mr Dykes yesterday questioned the competence of the ICAC to obtain the warrants in the first place, saying it was arguable the commission was not empowered to investigate the suspected breach of the Witness Protection Ordinance. He said the offence of perverting the course of justice by revealing the woman's identity was not connected to any offence under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, from which the ICAC derived its powers, and that the warrants were in fact 'defective'. The court reserved judgment.