British tech tycoon sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for sex crimes

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British technology tycoon Lawrence Jones has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for raping two women 30 years ago and for sexually assaulting a former employee a decade ago. 

Judge Sarah Johnston said in Manchester Crown Court on Friday that Jones already displayed a “proprietorial and misogynistic” attitude towards women when he committed the rapes. He was in his mid-twenties at the time and working as a pianist in Manchester’s hotel and bar scene. 

Jones went on to become a successful entrepreneur and was nicknamed the “cloud computing king” as the founder and head of internet hosting business UKFast. 

He was, at the height of his success, considered one of the most influential technology magnates in the UK with an estimated wealth of £700mn. The 55-year-old was awarded an MBE for services to the digital economy in 2015. 

But his business empire began to crumble in 2019 after the Financial Times published an investigation into his workplace conduct and treatment of female employees, prompting him to quit the company he founded 20 years earlier. 

Jones was last week unanimously convicted of raping the two women in Manchester 30 years ago. He was convicted of the sexual assault in January but that majority verdict could not be reported until late November because of a reporting restriction. Jones had denied all the charges against him in court.

The judge acknowledged Jones’s “remarkable success” in business that enabled him to build a life of wealth and privilege. But she added that the workplace environment he created was “tainted” by his attitude towards women.

She said that while staff were treated well “outwardly”, the “sinister” side of the company’s founder was laid bare by his treatment of the third complainant, a former employee he sexually assaulted while on a business trip in 2013. 

“You thought you could behave with impunity,” the judge said ahead of delivering her sentence. She added that his crimes were characterised by an attitude of “dominance” and “a total lack of regard for the rights and freedoms of these women”. 

The two women Jones raped in the 1990s, who do not know each other, said in court last month that he attacked them in his flat on separate occasions after he gave them a substance that left them stupefied and unable to fight him off.

One of these complainants told the court on Friday that she had been a confident, happy and “above all else fierce and fearless” individual before being raped by Jones in 1993.

The attack “destroyed” her and left her filled with shock, revulsion and anger at herself for not having kept herself safe on the evening of the assault, she said. 

The woman was critical of the lengthy and upsetting judicial process but she added: “Together we can stand up to perpetrators and we can get justice, it just shouldn’t be this damn hard.”

The second rape victim told the court the attack three decades ago had robbed her of her innocence and confidence and made her feel “worthless”. She said it changed her view of men, made her less trusting and “wary of intimacy”. She said she hoped the convictions would help inspire other victims to come forward. 

The woman who was sexually assaulted by Jones while on a business trip said the attack a decade ago had put a “dark cloud” over a third of her lifetime. “Not only was it a frightening assault, but I was then belittled, verbally abused and humiliated for exercising my right to say ‘no’,” she said.  

“I’m pleased to be standing here today, having found justice for the crime — but I will never get those 10 years back,” she added. 

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