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Conman Mark Acklom challenges court bid to seize his assets after romance scam | UK News

Conman Mark Acklom is challenging a bid to seize his assets, five years after he was jailed for a notorious romance scam.

His lawyer told a judge that another man had admitted “pilfering” money from the victim, so it was difficult to know how much Acklom got.

Acklom, 50, was jailed for defrauding divorcee Carolyn Woods of £300,000 after wooing her and promising to marry her in Gloucestershire.

He used a false name and convinced her he was a wealthy banker and MI6 agent, before going on the run.

After being extradited from Switzerland in 2019, he admitted five charges, but had originally faced 20 charges that amounted to the theft of £750,000.

The Crown Prosecution Service now wants a court to establish exactly how much Acklom benefited from his crimes against Ms Woods – and what he has left – so it can try to confiscate his assets.

Prosecutors believe Acklom, who was first jailed for fraud when he was 18, has profited by £1.3m in his whole criminal career, in which he has been jailed in several countries.

His lawyer Martin Sharpe said prosecutors had abused the current confiscation process under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) by not disclosing certain documents to the defence.

Mr Sharpe told a court in Bristol: “Paul Kaur is somebody who made admissions in interview [with police] that he had pilfered money from the complainant [Ms Woods].

“Part of the prosecution case was that the money Mr Acklom took from the complainant he channelled into Paul Kaur’s account.”

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Carolyn Woods was scammed by Mark Acklom

Mr Sharpe said: “In order to assess the benefit to Mr Acklom we need to find out how much money he [Kaur] took.”

The lawyer said he didn’t know how much money Mr Kaur took because he hadn’t spoken to him and “because he wouldn’t co-operate”. He said he did not know how to contact Mr Kaur.

Mr Kaur, a businessman, told Sky News last year that he had worked for Acklom and, like Ms Woods, had been duped by him. He was never charged by police.

The bid to establish Acklom’s benefit from the scam on Ms Woods began, effectively, from the day he was jailed and there have been several court hearings.

The latest is being held in front of Judge Martin Picton, who sentenced Acklom and told him at the time that he had acted in a “ruthless and utterly selfish manner”.

Read more:
Conman – the life and crimes of Mark Acklom

Acklom victim demands £750k from bank he used

The court was today told Acklom had been freed from a Spanish jail last year, after being extradited at the end of his UK sentence.

He was subject to a Spanish confiscation order of €374,000 (£321,000). His lawyer didn’t know whether he had paid it.

Acklom was not in court in Bristol, and is living in Spain with his family and likely to become a Spanish citizen. His wife is Spanish.

Judge Picton said the hearings have “gone on for a bit now, to put it mildly”, and said that, so far, he has not “heard a word from Mr Acklom”.

He added: “It leaves me utterly bemused that we spend a lot of time, here today, tomorrow and another four days later establishing a [monetary] figure that has beyond even an outside chance of ever being recovered from a person living outside the jurisdiction.”

Acklom’s lawyer described the law around confiscation as “a confused landscape”.

The hearing was adjourned for the day after the judge suggested lawyers from the two sides could discuss a possible agreement before coming back to court on Tuesday.

Judge Picton is expected to make a final decision on a confiscation order in April.

Paul Kaur has been asked for a response.

Scientists make huge discovery – that ‘challenges our understanding of the universe’ | Science & Tech News

Scientists have discovered a huge ring-shaped structure in outer space – and it’s so big that it challenges our current understanding of the universe.

Dubbed the Big Ring, the ultra-large structure has a diameter of 1.3 billion light-years and a circumference of 4 billion light-years, making it roughly 15 times the size of the Moon, as seen in the night sky from Earth.

The structure is made up of galaxies and galaxy clusters and is the second of such a huge size to be identified by Alexia Lopez, a British PhD student.

She also found the Giant Arc – a structure spanning 3.3 billion light-years – three years ago.

Ms Lopez, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Neither of these two ultra-large structures is easy to explain in our current understanding of the universe.

“And their ultra-large sizes, distinctive shapes, and cosmological proximity must surely be telling us something important – but what exactly?”

The findings, presented by Ms Lopez at the 243rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), appear to challenge a key cosmological principle which states that on a large scale, the universe should look roughly the same everywhere.

Undated handout graphic issued by the University of Central Lancashire of what has been dubbed the Big Ring which is made up of galaxies and galaxy clusters seen in the centre of the image Pic: Stellarium/University of Central Lancashire/PA Wire
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The Big Ring is made up of galaxies and galaxy clusters seen in the centre of this image. Pic: Stellarium/University of Central Lancashire/PA Wire

The general consensus is that large structures in the universe are formed through a process known as gravitational instability.

This process has a size limit of approximately 1.2 billion light-years as anything larger would not have had enough time to form.

Ms Lopez said: “Both of these structures are much larger – the Giant Arc is almost three times bigger and the Big Ring’s circumference is comparable to the Giant Arc’s length.

“From current cosmological theories, we didn’t think structures on this scale were possible.”

The data being analysed is “so far away that it has taken half the universe’s life to get to us,” she added.

Read more from Sky News:
Neptune’s true colour revealed after decades of confusion
Secretive US spaceplane embarks on classified mission

Large structures have also been discovered by other cosmologists.

The biggest single entity scientists have identified is a supercluster of galaxies – the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall – which is roughly 10 billion light-years wide.

The Big Ring appears as an almost perfect circle in the sky, but Ms Lopez’s analysis suggests it has more of a corkscrew shape with its face aligned with Earth.

Tory MP Jonathan Gullis challenges ‘virtue-signalling’ Gary Lineker to stand against him at next election | Politics News

A Tory MP has thrown down the gauntlet to former footballer Gary Lineker, telling him to stand at the next election amid an ongoing feud with the BBC presenter.

Jonathan Gullis criticised Lineker last month on social media for signing an open letter against the Rwanda bill, claiming it breached the BBC’s new impartiality rules.

Howerver, the Match Of The Day star hit back on X, saying the MP had not read the new social media guidelines, suggesting he couldn’t read.

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Mr Gullis (left) said he would ‘absolutely’ beat Lineker at the polls

Asked about the row on Sky News, Mr Gullis said: “Gary’s constantly trying to get lots of likes on Twitter, or X as it’s now called… I think Gary needs to spend less time virtue-signalling and more time talking about football, which he’s actually very good at.”

He said he would “absolutely” beat Lineker at an election in his constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North, adding: “Let the public decide.”

Mr Gullis has been an MP for the constituency since 12 December 2019, unseating Labour’s Ruth Smeeth.

He explained he wrote to the BBC director-general Tim Davie to complain about Lineker because the incoming chair of the BBC suggested his comments may have been in breach of the guidelines.

Lineker, a staunch critic of the government’s asylum seeker policy, was suspended from presenting Match Of The Day in March, last year, after comparing the language used in the plan with 1930s Germany.

He returned to hosting duties after Mr Davie apologised and said an independent review had been launched looking into the corporation’s social media guidelines, particularly for freelancers like Lineker.

Several of the TV star’s co-presenters had also stood down from the show in solidarity.

Read more:
Lineker post about Shapps appears to breach BBC guidelines
BBC ‘totally rejects’ claim University Challenge is ‘elitist’

But Mr Gullis criticised the corporation’s response, saying: “The director-general seems to have just done a whitewash, so clearly Gary Lineker either runs the BBC or the director-general is too scared to actually stand up to him.”

He said the BBC’s name had been “dragged through the mud” by Lineker, claiming he is held to a different standard than less well-known presenters.

Lineker backed the broadcaster’s new rules in September, which say high-profile presenters should be able to express their views on political issues providing they did not extend to activism.

BBC news presenters, however, are subject to stricter impartiality guidelines.

Highest number of children with speech and language challenges ever recorded, report says | UK News

One in five primary and secondary aged children are estimated to be behind with their talking and understanding of words, a new survey by a charity suggests.

Speech and Language UK says this is the highest number of children with speech and language challenges ever recorded.

The report, based on a survey of teachers, also found that:

• 80% of teachers think children in their classroom are behind with their talking and/or understanding of words
• 73% of teachers surveyed think that children’s speech and language is not prioritised by the government
• 53% of teachers don’t believe they have enough training to support pupils’ speech and language in the classroom

The charity’s chief executive, Jane Harris, said: “That really shows us that what schools, nurseries the government are doing at the moment isn’t enough to help children to have the futures they deserve.”

She warned about the dangers of letting children fall behind.

Speech and Language UK charity chief executive, Jane Harris
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Charity chief exec Jane Harris says not enough is being done to help children ‘have the futures they deserve’

“Teachers and teaching assistants can do an awful lot to help children. We also need the NHS to recruit enough Speech and Language Therapists so that children who have lifelong speech and language challenges get that specialist therapy that they really need.

“Without that extra support, these children are likely to fail in English and maths, they’re also likely to end up with mental health problems, they’re more likely to end up out of work, and they’re more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.”

Read more:
Children ‘struggling with talking and understanding words following pandemic’

Viral Bhundia’s son Jay is in nursery. He says the family played guessing games when Jay’s speech had not developed.

“If he wanted something he would scream, and it was up to us to kind of decode it and figure out what he wanted. Slowly, with different techniques, we were able to see… Does he want a cup? Does he want water? Initially it was a bit difficult.”

Father Viral Bhundia
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Mr Bhundia says his son has now reached expected levels because of specialist support

Mr Bhundia explains that moving to another London borough helped get Jay specialist support.

“Because of the support we’ve had he’s reached the level that we expect him to be, but I know many other parents probably haven’t had that support and it’s quite difficult for them,” he told Sky News.

Jay’s nursery director blames lockdown and its effects.

“A lot of parents were keeping their children at home even after the country started to open up,” said Jennifer Lewis, director of Smarty Pants Nursery in east London.

“Communication was often done through things like laptops, iPads, tablets, whereby children watching a lot of things online.”

“It’s important to actually communicate with your child… actually talking to them, not just having something where they’re watching just on screen.”

Read more from Sky News:
More schools with structural problems could come to light
Schools made with certain type of concrete forced to close

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are conscious of the effect the pandemic has had on pupils’ education which is why we have made almost £5bn available for education recovery.

“Two-thirds of primary schools have benefitted from our £17m investment in the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, improving the speech and language skills of over 90,000 children in reception classes over three years.”