The day of reckoning over phone hacking is almost upon us and almost the entire former hierarchy of News International will be standing in the dock. No wonder Rupert Murdoch quietly dropped his directorship of the company at the weekend.
Rebekah Brooks, the former NI chief executive, has been charged along with her great friend Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World. How damaging it will be for David Cameron to watch the trial of a man he appointed as his Director of Communications.
Brooks and Coulson formed an alliance that one bestrode British popular journalism. They edited the biggest-selling tabloid newspapers in the land.
But the 19 charges read out by the Crown Prosecution Service this morning did not stop with those two big names. Stuart Kuttner, the veteran managing editor of the News of the World, who oversaw the paper’s finances, is charged too. It’s unclear whether the Wapping veteran will be fit enough to stand trial.
Also charged are Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, the core team that oversaw the news operation at the Sunday tabloid which Mr Murdoch closed in July last year.
The eighth person charged was the private investigator and former footballer Glenn Mulcaire, who was on a contract with the News of the World.
Among those previously arrested by Scotland Yard but not charged yesterday, the most high profile was Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, who later worked as public relations consultant for the Metropolitan Police.
When this matter first came before the criminal courts it was presented as a case involving a lone News of the World journalist, the Royal Editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for four months in January 2007. That case centred on the hacking of members of the Royal household and referred to a handful of other victims.
More than five years later, the CPS yesterday made reference in the charge sheets to a string of other high profile alleged hacking victims, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sienna Miller, Sir Paul McCartney, former Home Secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, Wayne Rooney and Delia Smith.
For years, the prosecuting authorities have been accused of failing to acknowledge the scale of criminality behind the hacking scandal while Mr Murdoch’s News Corp has repeatedly represented the affair as a conspiracy by political and commercial rivals to exaggerate what went on.
Now all of the big guns who controlled the news operation that went so badly awry at the News of the World are to stand trial. Finally, we shall see.