Jurors at the so-called ‘trial of the century’ will likely not be handing down their verdicts until well into next year.
Around Easter, their ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ could decide the fate of not only some of the UK’s most high-profile journalists, but entire media empires.
But in the meantime they have been given an early, tough decision: do they want to spend the next four or five months of their lives listening to the ins and outs of the phone hacking saga?
Monday was the first day of the trial at the Old Bailey, where eight defendants faced charges relating to alleged phone-hacking and payments to public officials at the now-defunct News of the World newspaper.
The defendants include Rupert Murdoch’s star protégé and confidante Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International and editor of the News of the World; her husband Charlie Brooks, and Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World and Downing Street’s communications director.
The other defendants are Ian Edmondson, former editor of the NOTW, Stuart Kuttner, the paper’s former managing editor, Clive Goodman its former royal editor, Mark Hanna, former head of security at News International and Cheryl Carter, former PA to Ms Brooks.
Ian Edmondson, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Stuart Kuttner are charged with conspiring to hack mobile phone voicemails.
Mr Goodman, Mr Coulson and Ms Brooks also face charges over alleged payments to public officials. And Brooks, her husband, Carter and Hanna have been charged over alleged concealment of evidence.
The trial is attracting intense media interest – with 20 reporters in the courtroom, another 50 in a nearby annex, and many more exchanging comments and observations on Twitter.
However, tweeting or texting from the court will be banned during the trial.
Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne dubbed it the “trial of the century”, predicting “Hollywood movies are going to be made about Rebekah Brooks, guilty or not guilty, and her journey from the Cheshire village of Daresbury to become the most powerful and courted woman in Britain.”
Hollywood producer Gene Kirkwood has reportedly already optioned a Vanity Fair profile of her, with Nicole Kidman suggested for the lead.
However, the movie will almost certainly not feature Monday’s events.
Ms Brooks arrived at court amid the glare of camera flashes (and on the wings of one of Britain’s worst storms in years), but the events in court were merely procedural.
Such a criminal trial normally begins with the prosecution and defence agreeing on questions to put to potential jurors – who are then sent home for the night to consult with family and employers about the ramifications of taking on a trial expected to run for at least four months, with scores of witnesses.
The prosecution is expected to open its case on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Andrew Edis QC, leading the prosecution, was named ‘crime silk of the year’ this month and the award citation noted he was "at the very top of the list for serious crime", with several successful high-profile prosecutions under his belt including former MP Chris Huhne.
Ms Brooks also has a top silk on her side: her lead counsel Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who in a previous life as a prosecutor was involved in such cases as the IRA bombing of Canary Wharf and the Jill Dando murder trials. The Sunday Times reported that he has “lethal cross-examination skills” and a “mean way with closing speeches”.
The trial comes with the UK government and the press at loggerheads over a proposed new regulatory regime, based broadly on recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry, which the newspapers claim is an historic attack on the freedom of the press.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the solicitor general Oliver Heald wrote to the leaders of the three main political parties, asking for MPs to refrain from commenting on the case behind the legally-privileged walls of Parliament.
The trial may have ramifications, not only for future treatment of the press by politicians, but also for the political influence of Rupert Murdoch – as well as his business empire.
The Leveson Inquiry into press misbehaviour steered clear of the potential criminal actions, so this trial may see new detail of allegations about who was hacked, when and to what extent.
And the evidence may give a better picture as to exactly who at News International and News Corp knew what their employees were allegedly up to, and to what extent it may have been authorised.
Potential jurors were asked to fill in questionnaire and will return for final selection on Tuesday.
Justice John Saunders warned the jury panel they should be prepared for the case to last a long time.
"This trial concerns allegations of criminal conduct at the News of the World and the Sun newspapers which preceded the closure of the News of the World," he said.
"It's an important case. The trial we are about to start will take a considerable length of time. It's estimated the case may last until Easter.
"I hope that with the assistance of counsel the case will finish more quickly, but people who sit on [the jury] should be prepared for the case to go on that long."
They were reminded not to look up anything about the case on the internet - including Google and Twitter - and were warned it was the sort of case where "people have a lot of views".