State’s longest serving prisoner continues legal bid for temporary release

John Shaw has been in custody since September 1976

The State’s longest serving prisoner is set to continue his legal bid for two days temporary release per year.

English national John Shaw (73) has been in custody in Ireland since September 1976 when both he and another English man, Geoffrey Evans, were arrested for the abduction, rape, torture and murder of Elizabeth Plunkett (22) in Co Wicklow and Mary Duffy (24) in Co Mayo that year.

Shaw and Evans were both given life sentences at the Central Criminal Court on February 9th, 1978.

Evans died in 2012 from an infection after spending more than three years in a vegetative state. He had been at the Mater Hospital, under round-the-clock guard by prison officers, at a significant cost to the State.


Over the years, Shaw's case has been the subject of a number of reviews first by the Sentence Review Group and subsequently the Parole Board.

In April 2016, the Prison Review Committee noted Shaw was “very frustrated that he has never got a day out of prison in his 38 years in custody… He has no family in Ireland and has only received one family visit over the course of his sentence.”

Risk assessment

The following June, a dynamic risk assessment of Shaw found him to be at a “high-level risk of re-offending”. Areas of particular concern to the assessors were “poor problem solving skills; negative emotionality; deviant sexual preference; cooperation with supervision; significant social influences; hostility towards women; general social rejection; and lack of concern for others.”

In 2016, the Parole Board recommended Shaw remain in Arbour Hill prison to allow speedy access to medical treatment and that he be granted two days of escorted outings per year.

However, the Minister for Justice did not support the recommendation for two days of escorted outings, which Shaw's lawyers challenged in the High Court.

In a judgment delivered last March, Ms Justice Mary Faherty said she was satisfied that Shaw had been afforded the full panoply of fair procedures due to him.

However, Ms Justice Faherty commented that the reason’s provided for the Minister’s refusal left “something to be desired”.

Shaw’s lawyers were granted an extension of time to appeal the High Court judgment on Monday. His lawyers filed an appeal approximately one month late due to an inadvertence.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Shaw had clearly formed an intention to appeal within the time required and suitable grounds of appeal had been identified.

He said there was every chance Shaw would continue his legal challenge, if the court refused to extend time, and the same issue could come back before the court in two years time.

Shaw was not present in court for the application to extend time to appeal.

Parole Board

Ms Justice Faherty had said the function of the Parole Board was to provide an advisory role to the Minister for Justice in the exercise of the the Minister’s discretion. There was no suggestion that the Parole Board did not abide by the processes set in place in order for it to be in a position to assist the Minister in the consideration of the management of the Shaw’s sentence.

She said the opportunities afforded to Shaw to make his case to the Parole Board were clear from the process in which he engaged. He participated in two interviews with the two members of the Parole Board who were designated to interview him.

Furthermore, he wrote to the Parole Board taking issue with what was said to be the interviewers’ misstatement of answers given by him in the course of the interview and with their having raised certain matters which the applicant contended were outside of their remit, Ms Justice Faherty said.

She dismissed his application for judicial review.