Britain's entire press stands in the dock at an inquiry into media standards, said a lawyer representing victims of press intrusion and phone-hacking by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World.
David Sherborne, who is representing 51 core participants at an inquiry set up as the hacking scandal engulfed News Corp's British arm, said Wednesday that tawdry tabloids were guilty of blackmail, bribery and vilification.
He said his clients had endured lies, harassment and other despicable actions from the press and that phone-hacking might only be the tip of the iceberg.
It is the whole of the press, and in particular the tabloid section of it, which we say stands in the dock, he said.
It is time we had change and by that I mean real change.
The Leveson inquiry, due to last a year, will make recommendations which could have a huge impact on the industry and lead to tighter regulation and, at the least, an overhaul of the current system of self-regulation.
Lawyers for Britain's major newspaper groups have already pleaded for the essence of that system to remain and said that if anything, the press needed more freedoms.
But in a scathing and detailed attack on newspapers, particularly the notoriously aggressive tabloid press, Sherborne said:
We are here not just because of the shameful revelations which have come out of the hacking scandal, but also because there has been a serious breakdown of trust in the important relationship between the press and the public.
The press is a powerful body. They have a common interest and a self-serving agenda, he told the inquiry.
Sherborne said revelations that a private detective, jailed for phone-hacking in 2007 along with the News of the World's former royal reporter, had carried out more than 2,000 tasks for the paper suggested that there were about 10 stories in the tabloid every week from the illegal practice.
He listed details of some of those who had been targeted, starting with the parents of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered. It was the revelation that her phone had been hacked while she was missing that changed attitudes to the issue.
Within days, News Corp withdrew its bid to buy the 61 percent of broadcaster BSkyB it did not already own and its British newspaper arm News International closed down the 168-year-old News of the World. It also prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to order the inquiry.
Sherborne told how Dowler's mother felt euphoria when some of her missing daughter's voicemail messages had been deleted -- suggesting she might still be alive and deleting them herself -- when in fact the paper's private detective was responsible.
Perhaps there are no words which can adequately describe how despicable this act was, he said. The Dowlers will be the first victims to give evidence Monday.
Sherborne listed a host of accusations - not all related to phone-hacking - against British newspapers from clients, ranging from celebrities such as actress Sienna Miller to unknown figures caught up in high-profile stories.
He cited the case of Max Mosley, the former head of Formula One, whose privacy London's High Court ruled the News of the World had breached by publishing pictures of him with five prostitutes.
Mosley's son later committed suicide and Sherborne said Mosley believed the paper's pursuit of his family had been a contributing factor.
He hinted further damning practices would be uncovered, saying two inquiry witnesses had their email accounts hacked.
Earlier, Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper which has led the way in exposing the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World, said the inquiry should examine why allegations it made in 2009 were not followed up for 18 months by police, politicians and other journalists.
He queried if lawmakers themselves had been threatened by News International.
The inquiry is keen to hear about journalism practices on papers but Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said there was a genuine climate of fear among reporters about speaking out.
She said the suggestion that senior editors were unaware of what was going on in their newsrooms was as daft as it was unbelievable, and added excessive pressure from bosses affected ethical standards.
The pressure on journalists to deliver is relentless, often to unpredictable and unreasonable timescales, and without the resources to do the job well, she said.
Such pressures lead to short cuts and can result in the abandoning of fundamental principles.
Separately, a police lawyer said there had been a misunderstanding about how many names of News of the World staff had been found in the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective who carried out the hacking.
Neil Garnham said it was wrong to say that police had established that at least 27 other News of the World employees were listed besides the paper's royal reporter Clive Goodman.
The inquiry's counsel Robert Jay had correctly stated on Monday that 28 corner names had been found in the notebooks, Garnham said. But it was incorrect to infer, as Jay did, that these were all News of the World staff.
Some of them probably are. For many others, it's impossible, at least thus far, to say whether they were or not, Garnham said.
It certainly cannot be said that the Metropolitan Police have established that all the taskings indicated by the corner names were made by News of the World employees, he added.
The clarification came after a lawyer for News International had questioned the numbers as being too high Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Tim Castle; editing by Andrew Roche)