Multi-millionaire tech boss convicted of raping two women in 1990s

By John Mercury November 26, 2023

Multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur Lawrence Jones has been found guilty of raping two women in Manchester in the 1990s.

The former UKFast chief executive was convicted in January this year of sexually assaulting another woman in 2013, which could not be reported until today because of court restrictions.

He has already spent 10 months behind bars after being remanded in custody earlier this year following that conviction.

But the 55-year-old is expected to be sentenced for all three offences on 1 December following the conclusion of a second trial.

Jones, who set up the web hosting provider with his wife Gail in 1999, was once considered one of the most influential technology magnates in the UK with an estimated wealth of about £700m, according to the Financial Times.

UKFast employed around 500 staff and had more than 5,000 clients including the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office, earning Jones an MBE in 2015 for services to the digital economy.

Allegations against him were first made in 2019, when a former employee told police he had sexually assaulted her during a business trip to London.

In May 2019 Jones was investigated under caution where he answered “no comment” to all questions.

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‘Let me see your knickers’

During a trial in January this year, prosecutor Eloise Marshall KC told jurors Jones and his former employee – a victim referred to by police as Woman A – had gone up to a penthouse suite which had two separate bedrooms but a shared seating area.

Ms Marshall described how Jones made numerous advances on the woman.

At one point, he said to her “let me see your knickers” and placed his hands on her body, the trial heard.

“This caused her dress to ride up and as she was trying to pull it down and get away, he was trying to get on top of her,” Ms Marshall said.

The woman managed to free herself from Jones and lock herself in one of the rooms, according to the prosecutor.

She later left UKFast and was reportedly paid a £13,000 settlement “for her silence”, Ms Marshall said, and was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Jones had denied the accusation and claimed the woman had become drunk in the hotel bar and was “flirtatious”.

“I put my hands on people’s shoulders but only people I thought I had a really good relationship with. There’s nothing sexual about what I was doing,” he told the court in January.

“I gave hugs to people, that’s the sort of person I am.”

Jones was found guilty of sexual assault but was acquitted of sexually assaulting and raping a fourth woman at Manchester Crown Court.

General view of the UKFast Campus factory in Birley Fields, Manchester, as the company's multi-millionaire boss who stepped down following sexual harassment and bullying allegations had been facing pressure from his customers, the PA news agency can reveal. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 31, 2019. Lawrence Jones, who received an MBE in 2015 for services to the digital economy and was pictured with Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party Conference, is taking "a leave of absence", the business-to-business hosting company confirmed on Wednesday night. See PA story CITY UKFast . Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Image:
UKFast Campus factory in Birley Fields, Manchester

Women reported feeling ‘woozy’ and ‘floaty’

In 2021, a second woman (Woman B) came forward and accused Jones of raping and sexually assaulting her in 1993, when she was a student at the University of Manchester and Jones was in a relationship with her friend.

She told the court that her body felt “floaty” after having one glass of wine that Jones had poured while the pair were at his flat.

In the years after the assault, she said she had told friends what had happened to her, but did not feel able to report it to police at the time.

A year later, a third woman (Woman C) – who did not know the other complainant – told police she and her partner had become friends with Jones in 1993, when he played music in pubs and bars across Manchester.

She accused Jones of rape after she had felt woozy and laid on her bed after he told her to smell a bottle of liquid he was holding.

In 2019, she told her husband and a friend about the offence and three years later in 2022, she reported the incident to Greater Manchester Police.

Jones was convicted of raping Woman B and Woman C after pleading not guilty at a trial which lasted three weeks.

Jurors were not told about his previous sexual assault conviction.

Mrs Jones held her hand over her mouth as the unanimous verdicts were read out in court, and two of the defendant’s daughters were in tears in the public gallery.

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