1. Under what circumstances can the ICAC officers enter a private premises and search for items inside? Must the ICAC officers obtain a warrant beforehand?
Entry and search with a court warrant
The ICAC officers can enter and search any premises with a search warrant.
According to section 17 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, an ICAC officer may apply to a Magistrate or a Judge of the High Court for a warrant to search any private premises. In order to obtain the search warrant, the officer must satisfy the c ourt that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is evidence of an offence under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance inside such premises. In urgent cases, the search warrant can be granted by the Commissioner of the ICAC instead of the court. Where the Commissioner reasonably believes the making of an application for the issue of such a warrant would seriously hinder the investigation, he may issue his own search warrant to direct his ICAC officers to enter and search the premises or place.
A further power of search can be found in section 10B of the ICAC Ordinance. A search warrant may be granted by a Magistrate for the purpose of entering and searching premises or places for evidence of specified offences under section 10 of the ICAC Ordinance (e.g. offences under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance or the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance; or offences of theft, fraud, false accounting etc ).
Entry and Search without any court warrant
However, it is not always necessary for the ICAC officers to obtain a search warrant. Under section 10(3) of the ICAC Ordinance, the ICAC officers may enter and search private premises without warrant for the purpose of arrest ing a person if they reasonably believe that person is in side the premises . The officers must first identify themselves and state the purpose of the search. The officers must also produce their warrant cards upon request .
Otherwise the ICAC officers have no general power to enter into private premises without the consent of the owner or occupant