Ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been released from prison less than five months into his 18-month sentence for phone hacking.
The former Downing Street communications boss left Hollesley Bay, an open prison in Suffolk, on Friday morning.
Coulson, 46, has served less than five months of an 18-month term imposed in July after he was found guilty of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.
It is understood Coulson will have to wear an electronic tag until he has served half of his full sentence as a condition of his early release.
The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on an individual prisoner but said inmates can be released under home detention arrangements before they have served half of their term.
A spokesman said: "Public protection is our first priority. Only prisoners who pass a strict risk assessment can be released on home detention curfew (HDC).
"Offenders on HDC are subject to strict licence conditions and can be recalled to prison if they breach them."
Prisoners can be considered for HDC if they are serving a sentence of more than three months and less than four years and have served a quarter of their sentence.
Coulson was previously held at HMP Belmarsh in south east London but it was reported in September that he was moved to Hollesley Bay to serve the rest of his term.
Public reaction to Coulson's release was largely negative, with many questioning the efficacy of the justice system.
Andy Coulson spent longer in court than in jail. #justice— Colin McCredie (@colinmccredie) November 21, 2014
Andy Coulson is being released from jail today only serving 5 months of 18 month term. Typical tabloid journo. Short, meaningless sentences.— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) November 21, 2014
Others were worried about letting a convicted criminal back on to the streets:
Andy Coulson is out of prison! Quick lock your doors and bar your windows! Oh, and switch off your phones!— Martin Robinson (@SurrealAnarchy) November 21, 2014
While some have already began contemplating the reason for his release:
Andy Coulson released from prison... pic.twitter.com/z7060uei6P— Ben Jennings (@BJennings90) November 21, 2014
ANDY COULSON RELEASED FROM PRISON? BET HE HACKED THE WARDEN'S PHONE AND KNOWS HIS/HER SECRETS— Gushda (@gushda) November 21, 2014
Some even think the release may have been orchestrated by No. 10:
At least the PM will know where to find Coulson if he needs any more advice.....— Steve (@Adriel1819) November 21, 2014
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