The former News of the World editor, sentenced to 18 months in prison last July, was released from Open Prison yesterday. You would think, judging by most media coverage of his release, that Andy Coulson is now a free man.
In fact he was released under something called the Home Detention Curfew Scheme, which was introduced in 1999. Receive a sentence of more than three months, but less than four years, and you qualify for the scheme. It means he will be required to wear an electronic tag for the next four months and , as the name of the scheme suggests, observe a home curfew. In practice this means he will only be allowed to spend a prescribed number of hours each day away from his home and he will have to observe any other conditions imposed upon him.
Even those who qualify for the scheme don’t always obtain early release. No one can be released unless they have been risk-assessed and can show they have suitable accommodation to house them. Anyone who seems likely to re-offend whilst wearing the tag won’t be released under the scheme.