A gay faith worker who was the victim of a homophobic attack, has invited his aggressor to his church.

Dr Barry Rathbone, who runs a multi-faith group, the Beacon Project, in the coastal town of Boscombe, was attacked with a baseball bat and left with broken ribs and suspected spleen damage, by Martin Powell in November last year.

Powell pleaded guilty yesterday at Bournemouth Crown Court to assault but pleaded not guilty to an alternative charge of grievous bodily harm with intent, which was accepted by the prosecution.

After the hearing Dr Rathbone told the Daily Echo, he has forgiven Powell, he said: “I forgave him the day he did it. After the attack I didn’t like going out on my own. I had a stroke in January due to the stress of the attack. I am a lot more nervous even if I am walking down the road in the daytime and someone is behind me.”

“I don’t bear him any malice. He would be very welcome at our church. I have no problem having him there.”

Powell will be sentenced at the end of March.