UK

A wealthy tech entrepreneur who got an MBE for his work has been jailed for 15 years for two rapes and a sexual assault.

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

Last month he was found guilty in another trial of drugging and raping two women decades ago when he was a hotel pianist.

Jones made millions setting up web provider UKFast with his wife in 1999. It went on to have hundreds of staff and thousands of clients, including the NHS and Ministry of Defence.

He was awarded an MBE for services to the digital economy in 2015 – but now faces at least a decade behind bars.

Jones was given 14 years for one of the rapes, a seven-year concurrent term for the second, and a one-year consecutive sentence for the sexual assault.

The judge at Manchester Crown Court said his crimes were “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”.

Image:
Jones and his wife set up UKFast in a spare bedroom in 1999

Jones was caught after a former UKFast employee made a series of allegations in 2019, including that he had forced himself on her for sex in 2010.

Another woman then revealed he sexually assaulted her in a hotel on a business trip in 2013.

The trial heard she later left UKFast with a £13,000 payout that meant she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The judge said Jones would often make inappropriate and sexual comments in the workplace that he dismissed as “banter” – with women subjected to unwanted attention.

Two other women separately came forward in 2021 and 2022 to say they were raped in his Salford flat in the early 1990s when he worked as a hotel pianist in Manchester.

One said she had been given something to sniff that had an “immediate impact”, the other described being overly affected by a glass of wine and a few puffs of what she thought was cannabis.

They were both left partially conscious but unable to react, the court heard.

Then aged in his 20s, Jones was “already developing a proprietorial and misogynistic view of women”, said judge Sarah Johnston.

All three victims gave personal statements from behind a screen in court.

“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,” his most recent victim said.

Jones must serve two-thirds of his sentence before the possibility of being released on licence.

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