Russell Findlay spent decades taking on the most dangerous men in Scotland’s criminal underworld. Organised crime clans such as the Daniels, Lyons and McGoverns and figures such as Paul Ferris and Kevin ‘Gerbil’ Carroll were unmasked by Findlay and his col-leagues at the Sunday Mail and Scottish Sun. Two days before Christmas 2015, Findlay became the target of an unprecedented attack when William ‘Basil’ Burns came to the journalist’s home and hurled sulphuric acid in his face. Taking this botched hit as his starting point, Findlay unravels the identity of those suspected of hiring Burns, at the same time giving a unique insight into the criminal landscape of modern Scotland.
There are no photographs of the event at Russell’s request.
One week into Aye Write and tonight I was at the CCA in Sauchiehall Street for my 8th event of the festival to listen to one of Scotland’s top crime reporters, Russell Findlay, in conversation with author Douglas Skelton. Russell was looking back on his career covering some of the highest profile gangs in Glasgow and talking about his latest book “Acid Attack: A Journalist’s War With Organised Crime”.
For most of us violence is an abstract concept, it is something we read about in books and newspapers or watch on the television, for Russell Findlay, it was a way of life in his career as a crime correspondent for the Sunday Mail and Sun newspapers. His involvement, up until 2015 was contained to writing and exposing the violence and criminality that is endemic in our cities until the day he came face to face with it on his very own doorstep.
Russell spoke candidly, and with some of the famous Glasgow gallows humour, about the attack on his life. He knows, however, that he was extremely lucky to escape with his life. When Douglas asked him “why you?” Russell explained that attacks on journalists and those involved with the media are more common than we think and they mostly go unreported. In relation to his own attack, at the time Russell had been working on a story about a very well-known criminal who was being prosecuted for domestic abuse; he was clearly unhappy at Russell’s attempts to expose him and ordered the attack.. “Acid Attack” looks at the police reaction to the attack, he believes there was no real inclination to go after those who orchestrated the attack and this lack of action sends out the wrong message to the criminal underworld.
In his book, Russell is scathing, and rightly so, about the justice system; its inefficiencies, the corruption and the underhand tactics used by both defence and The Crown; he laid bare the very real impact that this has on victims and witnesses. He firmly believes that the system, as it exists, is weighted against the ordinary man and woman in the street. He describes it as an “industry for the legal profession”. Giving reference to a term known in the courts as “churning” whereby the legal profession use any delaying tactic they can find, meaning that justice, if served at all, often takes years which takes its toll on those innocent people caught up in the middle of it all. His book is a vehicle in which he aims to expose the system for the dysfunctional mess that it is.
Russell writes for a living, but writing “Acid Attack” was a different experience for him, an almost cathartic experience in which he was able to express a controlled anger at what had happened to him and to highlight the corruption that exists. He described the discomfort he felt at “being the story” as opposed to reporting the story when his case came to court. Walking away from it all was not an option for him, he felt compelled to tell his story.
While personally, he feels the attack did not change him, it did have an impact on his professional life; he left employment when he found out that his boss had withheld knowledge of the threat against him. He talked of the criminal element who manipulate the media to their own advantage and the idea of media making criminals and gangsters figures to be admired.
“Acid Attack” is not simply the story of the attack on his life, it is an attack on a system that needs exposed and indeed reformed; it is the story of corruption at all levels and the very real need for changes to be made to ensure that justice is done in a way that does not further victimize the victims or line the pockets of criminals and the legal system. Tonight was the first time Russell has taken part in any public event about his book; he spoke eloquently, honestly and with a passion and a determination. He is clearly well thought of in the communities where he has worked to effect change, with one member of the audience stating that Russell was the “only one with the balls to come in and take on the establishment” and while he did not write the book to serve as a vehicle for change, I think most would agree that our system as it exists now needs something to shake it up a little. I for one, look forward to seeing where Russell goes next with his war on not only organised crime but also on an unjust system.
“Acid Attack” is available to purchase from:
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