21/11/2014 04:58 GMT | Updated 21/11/2014 06:59 GMT

Andy Coulson Walks From Prison After Five Months

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
Andy Coulson, background, former News of the World editor leaves the Central Criminal Court in London, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Coulson was convicted of phone hacking Tuesday, but fellow editor Rebekah Brooks was acquitted after a trial centering on illegal activity at the heart of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire. A jury at London's Old Bailey unanimously found Coulson, the former spin doctor of British Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty of conspiring to intercept communications. Brooks was acquitted of that charge and of counts of bribing officials and obstructing police. The nearly eight-month trial was triggered by revelations that for years the News of the World used illegal eavesdropping to get stories, listening in on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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.

Others were worried about letting a convicted criminal back on to the streets:

While some have already began contemplating the reason for his release:

Some even think the release may have been orchestrated by No. 10: