Rapist businessman Lawrence Jones sentenced
Disgraced businessman Lawrence Jones was today sentenced to 15 years in prison for two rapes and a sexual assault.
The former UKFast chief executive was found guilty in January of a sexual assault and remanded in custody, but the verdict was subject to reporting restrictions ahead of a second trial. Jones was found guilty of raping two women last week.
Jones was sentenced for 14 years and 7 years for the rapes to be served concurrently, and one year to be served consecutively for the sexual assault.
Jones sat motionless behind a glass screen at the rear of the court with a copy of an Andy McNab book on his lap as the court heard harrowing victim impact statements from the three women he attacked.
Also watching – and listening – in court were members of Jones’ family and his loyal former managing director from UKFast Jonathan Bowers.
In turn the women, protected from view by a screen at Manchester Crown Court’s Court 7 recounted the lasting damage to their lives as a result of their experiences. The victims’ friends and family sat nearby, many in tears.
One of the women said she felt “shock, disgust and revulsion”, another said “victims come in all shapes and sizes” and in a reference to the time the cases took to come to trial, which “compounded the stress” she said: “it shouldn’t be this damned hard”.
Jones was convicted of sexual assault on 31 January 2023. He had touched a woman’s inner thigh and forced himself on her whilst on a business trip and used sexually explicit language which made her feel really uncomfortable, so much so that she locked herself in a room.
The former UKFast employee, who Jones was convicted of sexually assaulting, said in her impact statement that Jones was in a position of power over her and used that fact to behave shamefully, by isolating her and making sexual advances when it would have been clear to him that they were not welcome. His response was to “belittle and humiliate” her for “daring to say no” she said.
She left the business shortly afterwards and signed a Non Disclosure Agreement before her complaint reached a formal employment tribunal.
Another of the women said that she hoped the case would inspire others affected to come forward.
Judge Johnston said in relation to the offence of sexual assault, for which he was convicted in January, Jones abused his trust and power and created a sexualised culture at UK Fast which went beyond banter, but which was tainted by his attitude to women.
Prosecuting barrister Eloise Marshall KC argued for a higher sentence due to the danger he placed the women in, and the use of drugs which the women described being given which made them feel “spaced out” and “really out of it” so they were unable to react to his unwanted sexual advances.
His barrister, Eleanor Laws KC, pleaded for a lenient sentence and cited references from people who recognised Jones’s good qualities as a mentor, and noted his support to help prisoners to read during his time in custody.
Jones had continued to deny the offences in police interview and pleaded not guilty at court. The delays to the trial were cited by all three victims as extending their trauma and suffering.
The sentencing hearing came more than four years after an investigation by the Financial Times. The newspaper first published the serious allegations of sexual assault in October 2019 and Jones was subsequently charged in January 2021.
“Our heartfelt appreciation goes to the remarkably courageous women who stepped forward to share the harrowing experiences they endured at the hands of Jones,” said Detective Constable Stewart of Greater Manchester Police.
“Their bravery and strength have been instrumental in holding Lawrence Jones accountable for his heinous actions. We express our sincere thanks for their immense bravery throughout this challenging investigation and trial. With this sentencing, we aim to deliver a clear message to survivors of rape and other sexual offenses — Greater Manchester Police will listen and will support you no matter who was involved or when it happened. No one should carry the weight of silence, and we encourage all victims to step forward and report these crimes to us. Greater Manchester Police remains dedicated in our unwavering pursuit of those responsible for rape and other sexual offenses. We also remain committed to protecting and safeguarding victims and survivors, ensuring they receive the support and justice they rightfully deserve.”