THIRTY-FOUR “lifers” are walking free in Essex, this paper can reveal.

Figures released after a Freedom of Information request show criminals handed life sentences by the courts have been released from prison.

The list includes people convicted of the most serious offences, including Murder and violent rape.

A spokesman for the Parole Board for England and Wales said the decision to release lifers, who had served their minimum term of imprisonment, was made by experts.

He said: “When someone is given a life sentence, they are also given a minimum period of time, which they must serve in prison.

“Once they have completed that time, they are eligible for parole. A parole board will only agree to release if it is satisfied the person does not pose a risk to the public.

“They can be recalled at any time if they commit another offence.”

Under the British justice system, anyone sentenced to life in prison or an indefinite imprisonment for public protection has no automatic right to be released.

Lifers must serve a minimum term of imprisonment, which is set by the judge at their trial.

Murder is the only offence for which a life sentence is mandatory.

Prisoners released back into the community are regularly monitored by probation staff. However, their identities may be concealed for their own protection.

The sister of a rape victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, hoped her sibling’s attacker will never be set free.

The woman, who lives in Westcliff, said: “Nothing can make up for the pain of what he did to my sister, but to see him set free would only make it worse.

“It would be a real kick in the teeth to her. Life should mean life.”