Monika Juneja admits pretending to be a barrister

Monika Juneja admits pretending to be a barrister

3
SHARE
Photo from Guildford Borough Council

Introduction

Any barrister who has spent 8 hours lurking around court only to be adjourned off because the Court hasn’t got any judges, or the cat has eaten the CPS’ file, or any other pointless reason, all for the princely sum of £0.00 would wonder why on earth anyone would want to pretend to be a barrister.

But some do. Monika Juneja, formerly a Conservative councillor for Burpham Ward on Guildford Council did. And on 11th May 2015 she paid the price for this when she pleaded guilty to this, as well as three charges of fraud and one of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. She will be sentenced later.

 

What did she do?

According to the BBC, “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“.

It was covered in more detail in Legal Cheek.

 

What’s the offence?

It seems that much of the offending relates to faking qualifications – straightforward instances of dishonesty in effect. The issue in relation to calling yourself a barrister is a lot more complicated.

It started off with an article in Get Surrey where they published an article pointing out that Ms Juneja was calling herself a barrister, despite having never been ‘called to the bar‘.

It is a criminal offence (under s181 Legal Service Act 2007) to :

(a) wilfully to pretend to be a barrister, or

(b) with the intention of implying falsely that that person is a barrister to take or use any name, title or description

Presumably Ms Juneja fell foul of the second point. The offence is either way, with a maximum sentence of 2 years.

 

What’s the big deal?

Well, I’m not sure. Let’s leave aside the fake references etc, which is obviously wrong.

There are other offences in the Legal Service Act 2007 where people act as a barrister where they are not entitled to. That, I can see, is more serious – you are acting as a barrister when you do not have the qualifications (and therefore also the insurance or the regulation) of an actual barrister.

It is not a criminal offence to call yourself a lawyer, whatever your background. Given that Ms Juneja had completed the Bar Vocational Course (not the BPTC), all she had to do before being called to the bar was eat 12 dinners (if you’re not a lawyer, you’re probably think I’m taking the piss. I’m not).

Ms Juneja had therefore done all the hard part of qualifying to be a barrister (a non-practising one). It is not that she was some cowboy pretending to be a lawyer when she had no idea what she was doing.

And context is important – if she used it as a description when applying for a legal job, it would be misleading (although any employer in that field would know the position). If it’s on a council declaration, I’m not sure that what she did was that wrong.

As to the rest of the charges, as stated, that is a different matter – faking letters and qualifications is clearly serious enough to merit a prosecution.

We will come back to this when we have a clearer idea of the facts, and what the sentence is …

3 COMMENTS

  1. We await the sentencing remarks but given that she faked a letter from the BPP Law School and hadn’t been called to the Bar, it’s reasonable to conclude that she might not have passed her bar exams and so it wasn’t a matter of 12 dinners but a qualification that she didn’t have.

  2. The BBC article is clear. She failed the BVC. It’s not a case of not bothering to be called but not being eligible by virtue of not passing the course.

  3. After three attempts at the bar exams, she was classified as ‘not competent’, which she allegedly changed to ‘very competent’. I don’t think this is about eating 12 posh dinners.

LEAVE A REPLY