A YOUNG man who required 41 stitches to the back of his head following a violent assault has revealed why he forgives his attacker.
Declan McGowan (24), from North Circular Road in north Dublin, avoided jail for attacking student Thomas Carter (23), from Monkstown, south Dublin, in May 2011.
Last month, the victim told the court he did not want McGowan to go to prison and described him as "a culprit with a conscience".
Yesterday the pair shook hands outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
"I felt that prison might turn him into a scumbag. He seems like a really nice guy," Mr Carter told the Irish Independent.
"I spoke to him on the last day of the trial. He apologised to me and said it was one stupid act of violence, one stupid punch. He said, 'I'm sorry for all the hassle I've caused your family, I'm sorry for the punch. He also told me about his upbringing, which wasn't happy."
Speaking to this newspaper last night, McGowan said he was extremely sorry for what he had done.
However he added: "I'm not a vicious person; I'm not a bomb waiting to blow up."
The court heard that on the night of the assault, Mr Carter and two friends had been drinking following the Champions League final. An argument developed between Mr Carter and a rickshaw driver on Grafton Street, when two of his friends ran off without paying.
During the argument, Mr Carter knocked the driver's hat off. McGowan then "came out of nowhere" and punched Mr Carter, who fell and knocked his head against the ground.
McGowan was a friend of the rickshaw driver and mistakenly thought Mr Carter had struck him.
Last night, McGowan said years of being bullied and witnessing a vicious assault in Cyprus several years ago in which a man was kicked to death may have caused him to lash out.
"I swore that I'd never walk past another guy being attacked again. Maybe it was something that was lying so deep in me due to me not defending that guy in Cyprus. I was defending somebody that I knew from having a drink with now and again."
McGowan said he "struggled with being misunderstood" his whole life and had found school difficult. However he had "come out the other side shining" and now owns his own contract cleaning company.
He bitterly regrets assaulting Mr Carter who suffered bleeding within the skull. McGowan said: "He sustained horrific injuries that nobody deserves to receive. It was a poor decision that I wish I could take back.
"He didn't deserve what he got from me or anybody. All I'm trying to do now is move on with my life and never do it again," he added.
McGowan was convicted of assault causing harm to Mr Carter but acquitted of the more serious charge of assault causing serious harm after he had pleaded not guilty.
Judge Patricia Ryan imposed a three-year suspended sentence. She also ordered McGowan to do 60 hours of community service, if he is found to be suitable, and to undergo one year of probation supervision.