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Council To Investigate Complaint Against Lead Councillor

Published on: 20 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 23 Dec, 2013
Cllr Monika Juneja

Cllr Monika Juneja

A complaint that Cllr Monika Juneja (Con, Burpham), the lead councillor for planning and governance at Guildford Borough Council (GBC), has improperly used the title “barrister” is being investigated by the council’s monitoring officer.

At the same time, Cllr Juneja has referred a press report and the accusations to her lawyers.

When asked to confirm whether she intended to take legal action against the Surrey Advertiser, who published an article on the subject last Friday (December 13), or green belt campaigners, who are also known to have communicated on the matter, Cllr Juneja said: “There are a number of different stages that I need to go through and it would be inappropriate for me to comment because this is a matter that is also being handled by the council’s monitoring officer.

“I would also point out that I do not believe that my qualifications are relevant to the role that I do as a councillor.”

The Surrey Advertiser published that Ms Juneja “had not been called to the bar” nor did she undergo “pupillage”, a mandatory period of practical training which is the final qualification before anyone can be a be given a practising certificate or call themselves a barrister.

 Monika Juneja is not listed on the Bar Council’s online search tool for barristers.

However, the Bar Standards Board has not been able to give The Guildford Dragon unequivocal advice on who may and who may not use the term. Their website contains a page “Holding out as a barrister” but they have said that their code only applies to those who have been called to the bar and if Ms Juneja is a student member at Gray’s Inn the case could fall to them.

Gray’s Inn have confirmed that she is a member of their Inn of Court. Becoming a member at one of the four Inns of Court is a necessary precursor to completing the Bar Professional Training Course, previously called the Bar Vocational Course. Passing the course is a necessary qualification before anyone can be “called to the bar”.

Cllr Juneja is recorded as a director of the registered company Legal Answers Limited. No website for the company can now be found. It is reported that it has been taken down. Cllr Juneja said: “Due to the fact that the council’s monitoring officer is in receipt of complaints, I have been advised that I should remove the word “barrister”[from certain records], whilst the council goes through its investigative process.”

Two of the online records from which the word barrister has been removed Cllr Juneja’s LinkedIn page and the Guildford Borough Council website which did show barrister as a recorded interest for her.

GBC’s monitoring officer, to whom the complaint has been referred and who will be arranging the investigation, is Satish Mistry, a qualified lawyer who is the interim head of the council’s legal department. Given the seriousness of the complaint and the seniority within the council of Cllr Juneja, Mr Satish has referred the matter to the council’s “independent person”, Roger Pett who sits on the Standards Committee to ensure probity and objectivity.

Robin Hooper, who according to Satish Mistry is: “a highly experienced previous Chief Executive and solicitor by training”, has been instructed to conduct the investigation. Mr Hooper was previously commissioned to report on the council’s restructuring options earlier this year.

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Responses to Council To Investigate Complaint Against Lead Councillor

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    December 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    So let the first without guilt throw the first stone.

    Could the complaint have been made because the councillor is actually getting the Local Plan moving after years of delays which in any commercial organisation would result in those responsible for stalling the process to, “Please go collect your salary at another location from another source.”

  2. Roland McKinney Reply

    December 22, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    To draw a parallel with a commercial organisation is perhaps unfortunate. In any commercial organisation I have worked with or for over the last 40 years, misrepresentation of qualifications, if this is what it was, is considered to be a very serious issue. It would be grounds for instant dismissal, with no redress.

    So whilst I accept this matter would be treated differently in a commercial organisation, I very much doubt it would be a long drawn out process.

    What is of interest is what impact (if any) this might have on the Burpham ward election result. If there was any misrepresentation during the election, what impact does this have on the election result?

  3. Caroline Reeves Reply

    December 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem Group, said:”We are pleased that this matter has been referred to our Monitoring Officer and await clarification of the situation.

    This is a major distraction from the work we are doing on the new Local Plan and we feel it will benefit residents and councillors alike to be able to resolve the uncertainty that currently exists.”

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    In any commercial enterprise, an investigation of this import would result in nothing less than the suspension of the official in question, until the conclusion of the investigation.

    We expect nothing less from our council.

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