Home owners who blindly follow the advice of an expert cannot escape conviction for failing to comply with government orders regarding repairs of structures attached to their property, a judge ruled yesterday. In the first case of its kind, Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing said he sympathised with nine owners of a house on Lamma Island who had been fined for breaching such an order. But he rejected their appeals against conviction, even though an expert had advised them they could ignore the order, relating to a wall adjoining their property. 'Blindly following the advice of an authorised person without taking into account other matters that were relevant cannot properly be considered as full compliance with the order,' the judge said. The owners should have consulted the Building Authority, which had warned them they faced prosecution, or a second expert, he said. 'I am of the opinion, therefore, that they had not established . . . a reasonable excuse for not complying with the order. Nevertheless, I am sympathetic that they were stuck in the opinion tussle of the professionals in the form of a dogmatic authorised person and a persistent Building Authority.' Mr Justice Woo slashed the fine imposed on each owner from $9,166 to $4,722. The Building Authority had ordered the owners to investigate the condition of a wall and to submit the findings with a report setting out any necessary repairs. But the expert consulted by the owners said the wall was safe and that the Buildings Ordinance order could be ignored. The Building Authority warned the owners on September 4, 1997, that the views of the expert concerned were not acceptable and that they may be prosecuted if the order was not complied with. They were later convicted by a magistrate of failing to comply with the order. Mr Justice Woo, sitting at the Court of First Instance, rejected arguments that the order was invalid or that the owners had, by their conduct, complied with it. The order was issued after the Geotechnical Engineering Office reported on slopes and retaining walls in the Tai Peng Village area of Lamma in 1995.