The Unlikely Roles of Horses in Criminal Justice: A Cambridge Festival of Ideas Event

Police horses and speakers at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, 2015

Speakers Jemima Manning, Rosie Meek, Chris Giacomantonio, and Rod Hansen, flanked by Roxy and Kestral.

Photo by Jacqueline Garget, copyright University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas

20 October 2015

Horses are a longstanding symbol of policing, and have also been used therapeutically in prisons. But what good do horses do in these contexts?

The 2015 Cambridge Festival of Ideas held a panel discussion with

  • Chris Giacomantonio, RAND Europe
  • Jemima Manning, Greater Manchester Police
  • Rosie Meek, School of Law, Royal Holloway
  • Rod Hansen, Deputy Chief Constable at Gloucestershire

Hansen opened this discussion, drawing attention to the wide variety of roles horses can play in criminal justice, including in situations where other police elements may be unable to operate. He then introduced the rest of the panel, who all contributed a unique facet of expertise in the training and use of police horses.

Manning detailed the processes involved in selecting and preparing horses for duty, Giacomantonio described the impact of horses on police visibility in neighbourhood environments and Meeks showed how horses can be used to help rehabilitate young offenders. The specific backgrounds of the speakers and their areas of expertise complimented each other and enabled them to provide a variety of perspectives when responding to questions put by the audience.

In addition to a reception afterwards, those who arrived at the event early were fortunate enough to meet two police horses – Roxy and Kestral – on the university grounds beforehand. The enthusiasm for the horses aptly demonstrated their potential for building confidence in police.