Should the State’s longest-serving prisoner be given temporary release?

In the News: After 45 years behind bars, should convicted rapist and murderer John Shaw be allowed back into society?

More than 45 years ago, in the late summer and early autumn of 1976, two young women in their twenties disappeared.

Elizabeth Plunkett, a 23-year-old office clerk from Ringsend in Dublin was holidaying with friends in a caravan park in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow when she went missing in August 1976. One month later, 24-year-old Mary Duffy disappeared in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Two English men, John Shaw and Geoffrey Evans, were subsequently arrested for the abduction, rape, torture and murder of these two women. They were sentenced to life in prison.

Evans died in 2012 after suffering a stroke but Shaw - Ireland’s longest serving prisoner – is still behind bars and now looking to gain temporary release from prison.


Shaw did win the right to two days of temporary release per year in 2020, but the Irish Times has learned he has not yet been granted any release days.

An assessment of John Shaw in 2016 found the now elderly prisoner was still at a high level risk of reoffending and also exhibited “ poor problem-solving skills, deviant sexual preferences, poor cooperation with supervision and hostility towards women,” security and crime editor Conor Lally told In the News.

“Not only has he not met the criteria of having reformed and rehabilitated to be released, he is actually being flagged as an ongoing serious risk to women,” Lally told the podcast.

Today we ask, who was John Shaw and should this convicted rapist and murderer be given a chance to step back into the outside world?

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope

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Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast