Prosecutor in DPP’s office awarded Marcus Garvey Graduate Scholarship

ATTORNEY-AT-LAW Syleen O’Gilvie has been defending the helpless since her early years. Now an assistant director of public prosecutions in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), O’Gilvie has been practising law for almost a decade and is a 2023 Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship recipient.

Looking back on her early years, O’Gilvie said she was uncertain about what career path to take. However, it was a character trait that presented itself through her years of primary and secondary-level education that became a beacon.

“I knew that I spoke well. I knew that I was good with arguments — debating to an extent — and I loved sport, but I wasn’t sure that law was what I had wanted to do. I realised that since I was young, I was always defending persons who were bullied and who didn’t or couldn’t defend or speak for themselves,” she told JIS News.

Raised on strong Christian values and a firm belief in fairness for all, O’Gilvie acted on faith and pursued legal education at The University of the West Indies, Mona and the Norman Manley Law School.

A true public servant, O’Gilvie started as a clerk of court at the then St Catherine Resident Magistrates’ Court, before joining the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

As a prosecutor of crimes against the State, having a hand in justice has given O’Gilvie a sense of fulfilment, reflecting the satisfaction she received being a voice for the voiceless during her youth.

“What gives me fulfilment is that justice was served. So, whether or not it [trial] went in favour of the Crown or defence, so long as justice is served then that gives me a certain level of fulfilment and satisfaction,” she said.

“It is fulfilling because you don’t just represent one person for the sake of money. As a public servant you are responsible to the public, and so when you do your work, when you prosecute to the best of your ability and when the public, for the most part, is satisfied that there is justice, I get a sense of fulfilment,” she continued.

To further enhance the delivery of justice, the assistant DPP is determined to further her education by pursuing a Master of Laws in International Criminal Justice and Armed Conflict, at the University of Nottingham in England.

O’Gilvie said she applied for the Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship and did not think much about it afterwards but was elated to learn she would be a 2023 recipient.

Her close friends and family, however, are not surprised that she won the scholarship, as they deem her a most “fitting” awardee.

“Ms O’Gilvie is industrious, hard-working, driven, creative and teachable. She is an exemplary advocate with tremendous skills. She is a leader and has gained the confidence of her peers. If there ever was a person who was worthy of receiving such a prestigious award, it would be Ms. O’Gilvie,” said Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Andrea Martin Swaby, a mentor to O’Gilvie.

Underscoring similar sentiments was friend, Michelle Rose, who said O’Gilvie is a person of integrity and very deserving of the award.

“I believe that it is a scholarship befitting of her. Everything that Marcus Garvey represented, Syleen epitomises — strength of character, strong conviction, believing in and loving the people, upward mobility, and betterment for people. She is someone of strong character and integrity and I think she will represent us well because she has the ability and the right mindset,” Rose said.

Her father, Sylvester O’Gilvie, said his daughter, like her siblings, was “raised by scripture in a Christian family”, and her accomplishments do not come as a surprise but are as a result of a life dedicated to Christ.

“From birth we prayed over her that the will of God would be done in her life. Once she is in the will of God, we expect greatness irrespective of the field that she chooses. I would say to her, even before she joined the DPP, ‘Syleen, though you are a prosecutor it is not about winning cases. I want you to help this nation to administer justice’,” the proud father said

The international component of the international criminal justice and armed conflict degree allows for collaboration through which scholars can learn and exchange information on how their respective countries apply criminal law.

O’Gilvie says this will help her to create innovative programmes, processes, and policies to improve the administration of justice in the country and enact legislation that leads to a reduction in crime.

Referencing the work of the Office of the DPP in the last three years in raising awareness about cybercrime, O’Gilvie said her intentions are to add to that foundation with the knowledge she will acquire at the University of Nottingham.

“Upon my return, I will be creating or designing legal learning solutions, whether it is through presentations, workshops, papers, short videos or long films, on different areas of the criminal law, for example, cybercrime, human trafficking and others. Using those media would assist Jamaicans to appreciate the law, [and] assist policymakers and stakeholders in the justice system to have an advanced appreciation of evolving areas of law,” O’Gilvie said.

She advised other public servants who are desirous of self-improvement to not limit themselves and to apply for the Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship and other forms of available education funding.

“As Marcus Garvey said, ‘progress is the attraction that moves humanity’; you have to keep progressing. Do not remain where you are unless you are of the considered view that that is where God is calling you to be. I would say go and accomplish what you will,” encouraged O’Gilvie.

The Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship, now in its third year, offers 30 graduate scholarships annually at an estimated cost of $1 billion over five years and is administered by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

Nineteen public-sector workers were awarded scholarships in August to pursue higher education in the fields of national security, public health, computer-based management information systems, family medicine, construction management, law, applied data science, forensic science and renewable energy technology.

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