By Orville Williams
Ahead of his departure for the UK today, Antiguan prosecutor and the country’s lone recipient of the 2023 Chevening Scholarship, Curtis Cornelius, is reflecting on the work he will leave behind, as much as the promise of an exciting next couple of months.
He is one of 15 young professionals from Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean who will be embarking on year-long postgraduate studies at various British universities under the UK government’s annual scholarship programme.
Like many Chevening scholars before him, Cornelius is looking forward to the wealth of knowledge he is certain to gain, particularly about his area of focus, but those ‘bright lights’ have not blinded him to the work and the professional relationships he will be leaving behind.
“As prosecutors, we would have had matters assigned to us; you meet these witnesses [and] these victims and you tend to form a kind of a bond with these persons. To have to hand over my pile to be reassigned to somebody else, it can be a bit difficult.
“[However], I’m definitely looking forward to pursuing this master’s degree, to learn about why crime happens, how we can try to stop crime, and different mechanisms to rehabilitate offenders so that we can reduce our level of reoffending here in Antigua,” he said.
A Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cornelius will be pursuing an MSc in Criminology with a focus on offender rehabilitation at the University of Leicester.
He told our newsroom that he is not only excited about the lessons he will learn via the classroom setting, but also what he will gain from the plethora of networking opportunities set to come his way.
“It’s a bit of both, because I’ve already looked at the kind of work that some of my lecturers do and it definitely falls in line with what I already do here in Antigua and Barbuda through my work, so definitely, the networking [opportunities] will be beneficial to me.”
As evidenced by his area of focus for the academic year, Cornelius is a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform, particularly the issue of reoffending that has plagued the twin-island nation for some time.
Returning from his studies to ‘shake things up’ in that regard, he declared, is one of his biggest motivating factors.
“I do believe that when I come back, I can make a difference in changing how we do things here in Antigua, especially with our prison…because having persons just go to prison and leave without any major change done within their psyche, it doesn’t bode well for Antigua.
“We have these persons going to prison, coming back out and the reoffending continues. It just makes your work twice as hard, because it’s the same people returning over and over with criminal matters and that should not be.
“We should be able, here in Antigua and Barbuda, to have programmes available within the prison so that these persons have opportunities to better themselves. [Therefore], when they get out, they do not have to return to a life of crime”, he explained.
Along with his role as a prosecutor, Cornelius serves as one of the directors of the Antigua and Barbuda National Mooting Association – an organisation founded in 2020 to educate and train law students.
Through his work with the association, he has met, mentored and inspired a number of young and aspiring legal professionals with dreams of making a big difference in their respective communities and the wider society.
He offered this message of inspiration for them in the context of his own experiences.
“My advice is to definitely seize every opportunity that avails itself to you. Not everything that you want you will get, because I have applied for other things in the past that I was not successful [with]. So, it’s just that you have to be determined.
“You have to really want to make change and be passionate about the change that you are willing to sacrifice your time for…just keep pushing and definitely reach out to other persons who are in the area that you want to make an impact with, only good things can come from that,” Cornelius said.
The public prosecutor is the latest Antiguan and Barbudan to benefit from the Chevening Scholarship, after Jeniece St Romain, Malaeka Goodwin and Sharifa George in the 2021/22 academic year. He is also the country’s first male scholar since Kurt Williams back in 2016.