Former UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and will remain on the sex offender register for life.
Jones, 55, was convicted at Manchester Crown Court last week following the historic rape of two women in Greater Manchester. It followed a conviction earlier this year for a sexual assault against a third female.
Jones, of Brooks Drive in Hale Barns, has been remanded in custody at Strangeways prison for the last 10 months following the earlier conviction in January.
Jones was sentenced for 14 years and 7 years for the two rapes – to be served concurrently – and one year, to be served consecutively, for the sexual assault.
Judge Sarah Johnston, sentencing Jones, said: “You thought you could behave with impunity, characterised by entitlement, dominance and a lack of regard for the rights and freedoms of these women and in my view, an element of sinister premeditation.”
She said his charity work “cannot mitigate your offending”.
This week he was stripped of his honorary doctorate by Manchester Metropolitan University, awarded in 2016.
The police investigation commenced after one of the victims – Woman A – disclosed in 2019 that she had been the victim of a sexual assault in 2013, the year she first met Jones. She said he continually asked her to meet him outside of work, informing her that it was her duty to do so. Woman A then was invited by Jones on a business trip to London.
They went out for a meal and while in a taxi, Jones acted and said inappropriate things to her making her feel very uncomfortable.
On the return to the hotel, they had a drink at the bar and returned to their rooms, of which Jones requested adjoining rooms. Jones made sexual advances towards her. Woman A continued to pull away and Jones became verbally aggressive.
Jones continued to pressure Woman A before he sexually assaulted her. She eventually managed to get back to the safety of her room.
When Woman A returned home, she told her mother what had taken place and over the course of the following days and weeks and Woman A documented what had taken place.
In May 2019, Jones was interviewed under caution about the incident in 2013 at Longsight Police station. He gave a prepared statement and then answered ‘no comment’ to all questions asked.
Jones was subsequently charged with a sexual assault against Woman A.
In a trial held at Manchester Crown Court, having denied the allegation against him, Jones was found guilty of the sexual assault of Woman A on Tuesday 31st January.
In January 2021, a second woman – Woman B – came forward and disclosed that in 1993 one of her friends began a relationship with Jones when he worked in bars as a pianist.
On one occasion, Jones approached Woman B and invited her to come for a drink at his flat after she finished work. Woman B considered this for a while and decided that she should try to get to know Jones better for the sake of her friend.
Jones passed her a piece of paper with his address on and she got a taxi to his flat. When she arrived at the flat, he poured her a glass of wine and from this moment forward, Woman B only has snapshots of being in Jones’s bedroom. She cannot recall how she got there and told the court that her body felt floaty, like it was not her own – something she considered unusual as she had only drunk one glass of wine. Jones began to touch her and sexually assault her; she told him to stop.
Woman B continued to refuse his advances and did not consent, she wanted to get off the bed and Jones became aggressive and shouted at her calling her names. He said that ‘she should realise that she could not treat men like this and shouldn’t lead them on’.
Woman B began to lose consciousness and then when she began to ‘come round’, found that Jones was sexually assaulting her and proceeded to rape her. Woman B, who spoke of her fear during the incident, said how Jones smiled as he assaulted her.
A few days later Woman B called her friend, who was in a relationship with Jones. She disclosed what had happened – and her friend ended their relationship.
In 1995, Woman B was struggling to deal with what happened to her and so she self-referred to the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre and sought counselling to help her. During the years after this assault, Woman B told her friends what had happened to her, but she did not feel able to report this to the police at the time.
In January 2021, Woman B received a newsletter at her place of work and the headline of this newsletter related to Jones and that he had been investigated by police for sexual offences. This prompted Woman B to speak with her colleague and she made the decision to report what happened to her to the police.
A year later, a third woman – Woman C – also bravely spoke of her experiences and disclosed to officers that back in 1993, she and her partner at the time became friendly with Jones, who organised and played music events in pubs across Manchester. Woman C then split up with her partner at the time and moved out of her old flat.
On one occasion Jones came into Woman C’s bedroom and asked her to smell a bottle of liquid he was holding; she did not know what this was and shortly after she had smelt it, she began to feel woozy and lay on her bed.
Jones then proceeded to rape Woman C. She felt she could not do anything about it due to being incapacitated through the drug. Following the incident, Jones became very unpleasant to live with and eventually Woman C was forced out of the address due to his behaviour.
In 2019, Woman C disclosed the offence to a friend while on holiday then later disclosed it to her husband. In 2022, she reported the incident to Greater Manchester Police.
Woman A disclosed her experiences to GMP in March 2019 followed by Woman B, who disclosed her experiences to officers in January 2021, with Woman C following suit in April 2022.
Jones, who founded UKFast with wife Gail Jones in 1999, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial at Manchester Crown Court lasted a total of three weeks.
Detective Constable Stewart of Greater Manchester Police said: “Firstly, we commend the immense courage shown by the women in both investigations for coming forward to disclose the traumatic experiences they have endured.
“Their bravery has been pivotal in bringing Lawrence Jones to account for his heinous actions and we want to express our deepest gratitude for their strength and resilience throughout this challenging investigation and trial.
“It is our sincere hope that this verdict sends a powerful message to survivors of rape and other sexual offences that their voices will be heard, and that justice can be achieved no matter when it happened or who was involved. No one should suffer in silence, and we encourage anyone who has been a victim of such crimes to come forward and report them to the police.
“We are here to support you, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. The collaborative efforts of the victims, witnesses, and our dedicated investigative team were essential in uncovering the truth and securing this conviction.
“We understand the profound impact that such incidents can have on individuals, and we remain committed to providing support to those involved in this investigation and to those victims who reach out and disclose to us.”