England

Councillor Monika Juneja pretended to be barrister

Monika Juneja Image copyright Central News
Image caption Juneja admitted faking qualifications and pretending to be a barrister

A former councillor has admitted pretending to be a barrister.

Monika Juneja, a Guildford borough councillor until she did not seek re-election last week, had denied eight charges and was due to face a trial.

But she pleaded guilty to three counts of forgery, obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, and wilfully pretending to be barrister as the trial at the Old Bailey got under way.

Juneja, of Doverfield Road, Guildford, will be sentenced in June.

Offences she admitted included giving false qualifications to Bromley Council, and constructing false letters from the University of Greenwich and the BPP Law School outlining qualifications she did not hold, between July 2000 and May 2014.

The 36-year-old had denied three other counts of fraud, which related to providing recruitment agencies with untrue or misleading information about her CV, and which were ordered to lie on file.

'Witch hunt'

Prosecutor Kate Wilkinson said Juneja repeatedly lied about her degree and law qualifications.

She said Juneja forged a letter to show she had a second class degree to get into bar school.

At bar school, she failed three course modules but forged a further document to say she was competent in law, she added.

Ms Wilkinson said Juneja applied for jobs in which the law qualification gave her higher earning potential.

"It is right to say that she is not entitled to call herself a barrister any sense," she said.

The court heard Juneja used her fake qualifications to work at Bromley, Tower Hamlets, Brighton and Hove, Buckingham and Enfield councils in lawyer and council officer roles, and some of her mistakes could have cost many thousands of pounds.

Planning chief

When Juneja was arrested, she was Guildford's councillor in charge of planning and at the time had been overseeing plans to build hundreds of homes and potentially remove some villages' green belt status.

Howard Godfrey QC, defending, said she had been the victim of a witch hunt in Guildford as a result of seeking to push the policy forward.

Juneja's guilty pleas showed remorse, he said, and her years of public service had shown good character.

Mr Godfrey said her Indian immigrant parents had expected great things from her and she was "embarrassed" and "panicked" when she graduated with a third class degree.

"The fact of the matter is that although not qualified as stated, she was very good at her job," he said.

She was exposed by constituents who began looking into her background after raising a number of complaints about her work identifying areas of land for development.

The Conservative politician was later asked to step down from her executive role, but retained her councillor status.

Guildford Borough Council said she did not stand for re-election on Thursday and, along with all other councillors who stood down, Juneja officially ceased to be a councillor on Monday.

A spokesman said the council had no comment to make about the trial.

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