Monika Juneja forged university and bar school qualifications to bag legal sector jobs — and a top slot with local Conservatives
A former local government councillor narrowly avoided a prison term today as a Crown Court judge sentenced her for pretending to be a barrister.
Monika Juneja — who had risen to the height of deputy leader of the Conservative group at Guildford Borough Council — was handed a 14-month prison sentence, which was suspended for two years.
However, Old Bailey judge Gerald Gordon slapped Juneja with 200 hours of community service — which can include graffiti scrubbing and litter collection — after she was convicted of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and for having “wilfully” pretended to be a barrister.
Juneja’s conviction and sentencing followed Legal Cheek’s exclusive revelation in March last year that the Bar Council incorrectly told a Guildford council independent inquiry that she was entitled to use the title barrister. Bar officials later had to make an embarrassing climb down.
The saga dates back to 1997 when Juneja received a third-class degree in sociology from Greenwich University. Prosecutors told the court that she aspired to qualifying at the bar, but entrance on the then-vocational course required at least a second-class first degree.
Juneja forged her initial qualification to gain a place at BPP Law School. But she struggled on that course, ultimately being declared “not competent” by BPP.
But that didn’t stop Juneja; prosecutors said she forged at least one document from BPP, stating — on the in for a penny, in for a pound premise — that she had bagged a final assessment of “very competent”.
In 2003, she used that forged qualification to secure her first legal sector role, as a licensing support officer at Bromley Council in south-east London.
From there, Juneja had roles as planning officers at Tower Hamlets in London and with Brighton and Hove Council on the south coast. She also had quasi-legal jobs with Enfield council in north London and in Buckingham.
Juneja promoted herself as a barrister when she won a council seat in Guildford in 2011. She was arrested a little more than a year ago after local residents raised suspicions that Juneja had misrepresented herself.
According to the Press Association, in sentencing Juneja today, Judge Gordon told the 36-year-old: “For a period of some 14 years you have lived a lie about your qualifications and your professional status.”
You said it started as a result of parental pressure. There is likely to be an element of that but I am satisfied you yourself wanted the status and the prospect of success and advancement that it would bring. It was status rather than financial gain that lies at the heart of what you did although there clearly must have been financial gain.
The Judge continued:
You did not actually try to practise at the bar or claim to anyone you had completed a pupillage. Instead you used the ongoing pretence to enhance your standing in the workplace, and as far as status is concerned, to enhance your standing in the community, and it was that standing that ultimately led to your downfall.
Prior to sentencing, Juneja’s counsel, Howard Godfrey QC — who heads his own chambers in London’s Bedford Row — pointed out that she had pleaded guilty and was filled with remorse and regret.
The news agency quoted Godfrey as telling the court:
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. The fact of the matter is that, although not qualified as stated, she was very good at her job.
Ex-Tory councillor makes late guilty pleas to fraud and pretending to be a barrister [Legal Cheek]
Confusing rules governing use of ‘barrister’ title produce their most absurd result yet [Legal Cheek]