Something remarkable has just happened at the Old Bailey. The former editor of one of this country's biggest-selling newspapers, the News of the World, has been convicted of conspiring to hack phones. The jury decided this was no flash in the pan, no moment of madness, but something that Andy Coulson was involved in from 2000 to 2006.
Another former NoW editor, Rebekah Brooks, has been cleared of all charges against her. But even before Coulson was convicted, three senior journalists at the paper had pleaded guilty to phone hacking charges. One of the things that the trial has established beyond doubt is that there was a longstanding criminal culture at the paper as far as hacking was concerned, and it went on for years.
In the immediate aftermath of Coulson's conviction, David Cameron is taking heat for employing the ex- editor as his press secretary when he left the paper in 2007, after the original phone hacking trial. No doubt the prime minister has been preparing his public apology, which arrived very fast, for days if not weeks.
But in the longer run, it is not just Cameron who has questions to answer about this dreadful saga. It began, don't forget, with the Guardian's revelation three years ago that the NoW hacked the phone of a murdered girl, Milly Dowler, in 2002.
That was 12 years ago. It is only now, after a trial lasting eight months, that the criminal culture at the NoW has been exposed in forensic detail. Where were the checks and balances which should have prevented it happening - or at least brought it to light long before now? What does it say about corporate governance at News International, the company which owned the paper, that top executives didn't suspect a thing? That they stuck doggedly to the 'one rogue reporter' defence even when it had lost all credibility?
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
1/7 Rebekah Brooks
The former News of the World editor and News International chief executive has been cleared of conspiracy to hack phones; misconduct in public office for allegedly signing off payments to a Sun journalist's 'number one military contact' between 2004 and 2012; conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after seven boxes were allegedly removed from the NI archive just days before 2011 arrests
2/7 Andy Coulson
Former News of the World editor and Downing Street spin doctor guilty of conspiracy to hack phones from 2000 to 2006. The jury failed to reach a majority verdict on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories. He could face a retrial.
3/7 Stuart Kuttner
Retired managing editor cleared of involvement in phone-hacking conspiracy spanning six years
4/7 Cheryl Carter
Brooks' former personal assistant, cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the News International company archive just days before she was arrested in 2011
5/7 Charlie Brooks
Racehorse trainer and Rebekah Brooks' husband, cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011
6/7 Mark Hanna
Former News International director of security, cleared of perverting the course of justice
7/7 Clive Goodman
The former News of the World royal editor, could face a retrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict on charges of committing misconduct in public office for allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories
The jury has decided that one former editor was involved in the conspiracy, while another knew nothing about it. Three years ago, Rupert Murdoch appeared before MPs and talked about the 'most humble day' of his life. How much worse it all looks now, and what is he going to do to about it?
Then there is the question of regulation. The Press Complaints Commission, set up and run by the industry, failed to notice criminal conduct at the NoW on an industrial scale. Its successor, IPSO, is another fake regulator which fails to comply with the reasonable proposals set out by Lord Justice Leveson after a very thorough public inquiry.
I believe passionately in a free press. I've been a journalist all my working life and I don't want state regulation, even though my phone was hacked by the NoW in 2004 when it became interested in my private life.
What I want - and the public wants it as well - is a system that offers effective redress for individuals who have been abused by the press. For that, we need robust self-regulation along the lines set out in the Leveson report, not the PCC under a different name. If we don't get it, there will be more cases of ordinary people, grieving families and victims of terrorism, whose lives will be made hell at a time of intense anxiety and grief.
At its heart, this scandal is about power. It's about what happens when a section of the press stops exposing abuses of power and commits them itself, breaking the law and trampling on journalistic ethics. A paper which prided itself on exposing criminals has been revealed to have broken the law on a massive scale.
It should never be allowed to happen again. The press matters too much in democracies to have its reputation tarnished like this.
Joan Smith is a victim of phone hacking and Executive Director of Hacked Off