Documents destroyed after watchdog head made inquiries The ICAC has been urged to clarify its handling of covert surveillance operations after a watchdog unveiled in its annual report four cases of unauthorised phone tapping of lawyers' conversations with clients in 2007. Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, the commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance, also revealed a debate with the Security Bureau over the watchdog's authority. It was the first time the watchdog had pointed its finger at a specific law enforcement agency. Mr Justice Woo noted his concern that the 'legal professional privilege' (LPP) principle - guaranteed by the Basic Law - might be undermined. In one case, on a day in February 2007, a panel judge revoked an Independent Commission Against Corruption phone-tapping authorisation at 11.15am. The agency later revealed that the operation, which tapped a lawyer-client conversation, was discontinued by 11.25am but the tap was not removed until 1pm. The case involved 105 minutes of unauthorised interception, but when the commissioner made inquiries, he was told that some relevant records had been destroyed as a matter of policy, the report said. 'Because of the destruction of records, I was unable to verify whether listening did cease at 11.25am on the day of revocation, as reported, and whether the LPP information obtained had been screened out and was not disseminated to investigators,' the report said. A similar situation happened in two other cases, in which the summaries of the operations were destroyed, without explanation, the day after the commissioner inquired about them. Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, a senior counsel, said the Legco security panel would demand an explanation. LPP was at the heart of the administration of justice, and any breach was a serious matter, she said. 'The ICAC owes the public, the Legislative Council and the commissioner an explanation,' she said. 'Imagine what could be said in five minutes, let alone 15.' She was particularly concerned that the ICAC would destroy the records despite the judge asking that they be preserved. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the destruction of the records showed utter lack of respect for the commissioner and the panel. The anti-graft body said the report would be discussed by lawmakers on Monday. 'As a law enforcement agency, the ICAC gives absolute respect to LPP,' a spokesman said. 'The ICAC has acted in accordance with the ordinance and followed the code of conduct issued by the Security Bureau in its operations.' A Security Bureau spokesman said the cases of non-compliance were isolated and were mainly due to a lack of thorough understanding of the ordinance's requirements. Improvements had been made after the recommendations by the commissioner. A total of 1,525 authorisations on interception and 230 on surveillance operations were granted in 2007, leading to 661 arrests.