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Tech entrepreneur Lawrence Jones jailed for 15 years for three sex attacks

Lawrence Jones, former head of tech firm UKFast, has been jailed for two rapes and a sexual assault (PA)
Lawrence Jones, former head of tech firm UKFast, has been jailed for two rapes and a sexual assault (PA)

A multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur has been jailed for 15 years for committing two rapes and a sexual assault.

Lawrence Jones, 55, was convicted in January of sexually assaulting a female employee on a business trip in 2013.

Jurors in a second trial found him guilty last month of drugging and raping two women decades earlier when he worked as a hotel bar pianist.

Jones, from Hale Barns, Greater Manchester, set up web hosting provider UKFast with his wife Gail from a spare bedroom in September 1999.

The company went on to deal with more than 5,000 clients including the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office.

UKFast employed around 500 staff, including many young people, and its success led to Jones becoming an MBE in 2015 for services to the digital economy.

Sentencing him on Friday at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Sarah Johnston told Jones: “The three offences highlight that you thought you could behave with impunity.

“They are characterised by entitlement, dominance and a total lack of regard for the rights and freedoms of these three women and, in my view, an element of sinister premeditation.”

Jones received a 14-year sentence for one of the rapes, a seven-year concurrent jail term for the second and a 12-month consecutive custodial sentence for the sexual assault.

In January 2019, a former UKFast employee rang police to make a string of allegations against Jones including that he had forced himself on her to have sex in 2010.

A second woman then came forward to say that Jones sexually assaulted her in a hotel on a 2013 UKFast business trip.

She later left the company, prosecutor Eloise Marshall KC told jurors, with a £13,000 settlement which required her to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).

Jones, of Brooks Drive, was cleared of the sexual allegations he faced concerning the first complainant – one count of rape and three counts of sexual assault.

Judge Johnston said he had enjoyed a period of “remarkable success in business… with all the wealth and privilege that comes with it” but had created a workplace environment that was “tainted by his attitude to women”.

Jones would make inappropriate and sexual comments which he passed off as “banter”, said the judge, and women were subjected to unwanted attention.

She said the defendant’s “sinister side was laid bare” with his behaviour towards the young employee he sexually assaulted in a hotel.

The judge told him: “I am satisfied you had a sexual encounter in mind from the outset.

“She was shocked, scared and confused. She was then belittled and blamed by you for being unprofessional – turning the true narrative entirely on its head.”

In 2021 and 2022 two women, who did not know each other, came forward to the police and said they were raped at Jones’s then flat in Salford in the early 1990s.

The first complainant described being given something to sniff which had an “immediate impact” on her, while the other described being overly affected by a glass of wine and a few puffs of what she believed was cannabis.

Both women were stupefied and left partially conscious but unable to react, the court heard.

The judge said Jones, a “confident” man then in his mid-20s, was a successful pianist on the Manchester hotel scene who was already showing entrepreneurial skills.

She added: “You were however already developing a proprietorial and misogynistic view of women.”

All three of Jones’s victims sat together behind a screen in court as they read out their victim personal statements.

One of his rape victims said: “Thirty years later I can clearly see him for what he is. Everyone now knows the real Lawrence Jones.

“To quote Lawrence Jones MBE, from words I have read online since the guilty verdict last week, ‘we are the sum of all the decisions we make’. How true that is.”

His most recent victim said: “I was sexually assaulted by my boss, someone in a position of power, a father, a husband, on a business trip – somewhere where I should have been safe.

Eleanor Laws KC, defending, said many character references had been passed to the judge which “reveal a different side to Mr Jones’s character”.

She said: “I’m not just talking about the level of success, hard work and achievement in financial terms. There are repeated references that Lawrence Jones has been generous over the years to different charities, known and unknown, but also with his time.”

He has still continued to be mentor in prison – where he has been since his January conviction – by helping inmates to read, she said.

Judge Johnston noted she had also received a letter from the defendant’s wife which detailed the “devastating effect” upon their family from the court proceedings and Jones’s incarceration.

She told Jones: “For them you feel huge guilt but for your offending there is no remorse.”

Jones must serve two-thirds of his sentence in custody before he can released on licence.