It can now be revealed that UKFast founder and multimillionaire Lawrence Jones has been secretly behind bars for almost a year. Jones, 55, of Hale Barns, was found guilty of sexual assault in January this year following a trial at Manchester Crown Court, but reporting restrictions in relation to a further trial meant the first conviction could not be reported.
Following a second trial in November, jurors found Jones guilty of drugging and raping two women in the 1990s. Today, November 23, the presiding judge lifted the reporting restrictions on the first trial, and it can now be reported that Jones has been remanded in custody for over 10 months.
At a bail application hearing in April following his first conviction, his legal team offered sureties totalling £1.4m - plus a private company to provide a number of security measures including a chaperone - to ensure he would remain under ‘virtual house arrest’ if he were released on bail.
Eleanor Laws KC, acting on behalf of Mr Jones, said his wife, four children and work colleagues ‘rely on him’, adding that his incarceration had had a ‘devastating effect’ on them. She went on to say that his companies had made 19 people redundant in his absence.
Mrs Laws KC added that by the time of her client’s second trial in November 2023, he will have been in custody for ten months, the equivalent of a 20 month jail sentence. She said the ‘custody threshold has been passed’ but went on that the final sentence may be less than he would have served by then.
Prosecutors opposed the application, arguing that the range of measures being suggested would be ‘ineffective if there’s a determined effort to leave the jurisdiction’.
Ultimately, judge Sarah Johnston turned down the application, saying the court had to perform a ‘balancing exercise’ as it had when she had turned down his previous application for bail at the time he was convicted of sex assault.
She said the defendant faced ‘serious allegations’ in his upcoming trial and that his ‘period of incarceration may well make it more likely rather than less he would wish to flee the jurisdiction’.
Jones, appearing at the hearing from prison via videolink, showed no reaction but his wife was clearly upset as the judge left court, saying: “Our kids have got to be without their dad.”
The trial previously heard that Jones had sexually assaulted a woman by touching her thigh whilst saying: “Let me see your knickers.”
When she tried to stop him, she was told she had over-reacted to a joke. The woman managed to escape but in the days that followed Jones was ‘rude and very cold’ towards her.
After Jones was arrested, he sought to blame his victim telling cops he was ‘completely unimpressed with her attitude’ and that she became ‘quite drunk, flirtatious and quite embarrassing’. The jury didn’t believe him.
The prosecution in the first trial alleged ‘he behaved in a grooming and predatory way towards attractive young women’ and used his position as a boss to ‘get what he wanted’.
The lifting of reporting restrictions means the former millionaire businessman, who first earned a name for himself playing piano at top-end hotels across Manchester in the 1990s, is finally exposed as a sex predator. He will be sentenced on December 1.