Woman faces jail for barrister lies


Published: Monday 15th June 2015 by The News Editor

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A former senior Tory councillor could be facing jail after admitting she pretended to be a qualified barrister to get ahead.

Monika Juneja, 36, who rose to become deputy leader of the Conservative group at Guildford Borough Council, repeatedly lied about her degree and law qualifications, a court heard.

She was exposed by constituents living in green belt areas who began looking into her background after raising a number of complaints and claims over her work identifying areas of land for development.

In May, Juneja, of Doverfield Road, Guildford, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to three counts of forgery dating back to 2000, obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, and a charge of “wilfully pretending to be a barrister” between January 2010 and May last year.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutor Kate Wilkinson said the defendant had been dishonest over a period of 14 years by forging her qualifications and pretending to be a barrister.

In 1997, she began a degree in sociology and law at Greenwich University, switching midway to just sociology, for which she received a third-class degree.

She then set her sights on a bar course but needed at least a second-class degree to be accepted so she forged a letter from the university to get a place at BPP Law School.

After beginning the course in September 2001, Juneja failed three attempts at successfully completing course modules and was declared not competent in law in July 2003.

Ms Wilkinson said she forged a document stating that she had a 2.1 degree in sociology from Greenwich University, adding: “It is right to say that she is not entitled to call herself a barrister in any sense.”

She went on to forge at least one document from BPP Law School, stating that she received a final assessment of very competent in law which, the prosecutor said, was “very far from the truth”.

The defendant applied for jobs where the law qualification was a real asset and gave her higher earning potential, Ms Wilkinson said.

In August 2003, she got work at Bromley Council as a licensing support officer earning nearly £20,000 a year before leaving in 2006.

Juneja used that first job as a “springboard” to get more legal work through recruitment agency Law Absolute.

Using her false qualifications, she landed a role as planning officer at Tower Hamlets in November 2007, moving on to the same position with Brighton and Hove Council in March 2009.

The court heard that mistakes made while later pretending to be a barrister in Buckingham and a lawyer at Enfield council could have led to costs of many thousands of pounds.

In 2011, she maintained her lie to party officials when she ran for election as a Tory councillor for Guildford Borough Council.

She was arrested in May last year after constituents complained that she had misrepresented herself.

Defending, Howard Godfrey QC said his client had been the victim of a “witch hunt”.

He said: “She has by her guilty plea evidenced her remorse and regret. She is a lady of not merely good character but a lady of most outstanding positive good character in terms of the years of public service she has provided.

“She has suffered because, while plainly she has behaved improperly and plainly she has committed a number of criminal offences, she is the victim of a witch hunt in Guildford as a result of planning policy which she was seeking to put forward.”

Mr Godfrey said his client was the daughter of Indian immigrants who “expected great things” from her, ensuring she had the best education they could manage.

When she left university with a third-class degree she was “embarrassed” and “panicked” because her “ambitious” parents had hoped she would pursue a professional career.

He added: “The fact of the matter is that, although not qualified as stated, she was very good at her job.”

Juneja, who is on bail, will be sentenced by judge Gerald Gordon at the Old Bailey this morning.

Published: Monday 15th June 2015 by The News Editor

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