The multi-millionaire former boss of Britain’s largest privately owned hosting provider has appeared in court to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Lawrence Jones, 52, stands accused of serious sexual offences said to have taken place in 2010 and 2013, while he was the boss of UKFast.
The married father-of-four spoke only to confirm his name and address during the hearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court this morning.
However his defence lawyer Paul Morris, of London-based criminal defence firm BCL, said his client wished to indicate he was not guilty of the offences.
The entrepreneur and his wife Gail Jones, 43, grew UKFast from a bedroom-start-up founded in 1999 to become Britain’s largest hosting provider, with five data centres providing IT services for 5,700 UK companies.
The firm's headquarters in Birley Fields, Manchester, employs 400 people and in 2019 made the list of top 10 places to work in Britain, and has an on-site arcade, gym and auditoriums.
Staff are treated to regular fancy dress and cinema nights and employees are welcome to free beers at the office bar on Friday afternoons.
Jones, who lives in Hale Barns, Cheshire, and has houses in Wales, the Caribbean and Switzerland, presided over the firm for more than two decades.
In October 2019 allegations of sexual misconduct emerged by women who claimed they had been abused by Jones. Greater Manchester Police launched an investigation and on January 5 2021, the multi-millionaire was charged with rape and four counts of sexual assault, alleged to have taken place between 2010 and 2013.
Jones released a statement at the time, saying: "Approximately 18 months ago I contacted police and was interviewed voluntarily because I became aware of rumours circulating about me which although false were extremely damaging.
“I have fully cooperated with the police throughout and am determined to ensure that my name is cleared.
“In the circumstances, at this time it would not be appropriate to say any more, other than to state clearly that I did not do what is being alleged.”
Jones stepped down from his position as chief executive of the Manchester based firm in November 2019.
His wife Gail stepped up from her position of managing director to chief executive but in May 2020 the couple formally quit UKFast, selling their stake to Inflexion Private Equity.
At Manchester Magistrates' Court today, District Judge Bernard Begley granted Jones unconditional bail and committed the case to Manchester Crown Court.
Jones must attend the Crown Square court room on February 23 where he is expected to formally enter his pleas. ®