A former Guildford Borough Councillor has avoided a prison term after being convicted of lying about her qualifications and pretending to be a barrister.
At the Old Bailey on Monday, Monika Juneja, of Doverfield Road, Guildford, was handed a 14-month prison sentence, which will be suspended for two years.
In the same court on May 11, the 36-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of forgery, one of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, and one of pretending to be a barrister.
The court was told her offending began 15 years ago, when she faked her degree qualification at the University of Greenwhich, claiming she obtained a 2:1 in sociology, when in fact she was awarded a third.
She did so to get onto the bar vocational course, to become a barrister as a third honours degree would have meant she would not have been accepted.
However, whilst at law school, Juneja failed to complete the necessary exams after several retakes, and received a final grade of “not yet competent” and was therefore not accepted to the bar whilst a student member of Grays Inn.
The court learned she again forged a letter from the BPP law school, claiming she received a “competent” grade and went on to secure a job at Bromley Council as a licensing support officer.
Before sentencing on May 15, Judge Gerald Gordon, said: “You applied stating you had a 2:1 sociology degree, and a competent grade on the bar vocational course.
“In a personal statement accompanying that application, you made note of legal experience and advocacy skills.
“You were the successful candidate, and that must in no small part be on the basis of the law qualification and experience you were putting forward.
“I understand that with administration rather than legal experience you stood in any event, even if you told the truth, a chance of being employed in the same capacity, but at a lower grade and you therefore benefited as a result.”
Juneja then registered with a number of legal job recruitment agencies, the judge said.
“To each, you gave the same or similar false information and the same forged documents about your qualification,” Judge Gordon said.
“Through each of them you obtained employment, including in the City of London as a locum planning solicitor.
“There were four other jobs with local authorities as a lawyer, all of which you appear to have completed without complaint.
“Although, now that the truth has come to light, at least one has had to re-check your work for legal protection purposes.”
In 2010, she became employed by Wokingham Borough Council, and on the invoices she submitted, she described herself as a barrister.
That was the same description she gave herself when registering three companies on Companies House, and when making a formal application to stand as a candidate in the Guildford Borough Council elections in 2011, where she was elected to stand as a representative for Burpham.
Judge Gordon added: “Once elected, you were required to make information about yourself public, and again you described yourself as a barrister.
“This is what led to the discovery of your offending, because having achieved a leading role within the council in a town planning capacity, you led decision making in area that gave rise, as is not uncommon, to considerable opposition.”
When an investigation was launched into Juneja, she provided it with the false CV and false information on her subsequent qualifications.
When sentencing Judge Gordon said he took into account the ages of much of the dishonesty, her previous good character, and work she had “undoubtedly done for the community”.
“For a period of some 14 years, you have lived a lie about your qualifications and professional status,” Judge Gordon said.
“You have said that it started because of parental pressure that you felt under to succeed.
“I’m satisfied also that you yourself wanted the status and the prospects of success.
“Looking at the picture overall, it was status rather than financial gain that lies at the heart of what you did, although there clearly must have been financial gain.”
Monika Juneja leaving Guildford Crown Court
Judge Gordon said that as her status enhanced her standing in the community, it ultimately lead to her downfall.
“I have considered the question of harm, I do not believe anyone, save of course you, seemed to have been significant harmed by what you did, though many were deceived,” he said.
“I have no doubt that as a result of these offences, your career in public life is over.”
Defending Juneja, Howard Godfrey QC said that due to the age of the offences, and the “fact there has been no real sense of loss”, that her offending did not cross the custody threshold.
Delivering his sentence, Judge Gordon said that due to the public interest, the serious nature and prolonged period of the deception, the offences did cross the custody threshold, but due to the ‘exceptional circumstances’, he could suspend the prison sentence.
A sentence of 18 months was reduced to 14 months due to her eventual guilty pleas, concurrent for each count and suspended for two years.
She was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work “for the benefit of the public” in a year, and pay a victim surcharge.