A student who struck out at a young woman breaking her jaw after she hit him with her handbag has walked free from court.

A judge took a merciful course when sentencing 22-year-old Thomas Farrell after hearing it had been an out of character and isolated incident by a respectable young man.

Paul Becker, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the incident happened in the early hours of December 29, 2012, in Borough Road, BIrkenhead, after an incident between the 19-year-old victim and Farrell's friend Matthew Sampson.

She hit Mr Sampson with her handbag to his head and Farrell acted as a peacemaker and calmed the situation down to such an extent that he ended up kissing one of her two friends.

After Farrell's two friends walked away he walked with the victim and her two female friends towards the Pyramids shopping centre.

But as they walked along she began to "slag off" Mr Sampson and after Farrell verbally defended him, the situation became heated and she hit him with her handbag.

He used one hand to protect his head and with the other struck out towards her not looking where it would land.

The blow knocked her to the ground and she suffered a fractured jaw for which she needed surgery to insert titanium plates and screws, said Mr Becker.

Farrell left the scene but later after learning how serious her injuries were he surrendered himself to police.

Farrell, 22, of Oakleigh Grove, Bebington, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Lee Bonner, defending, said Farrell's first reaction had been to diffuse trouble but then in the heat of the moment he acted as he did which resulted in the serious consequences.

"He got involved to some extent because of alcohol and the perceived threat he felt.

"It has haunted him for nearly 14 months and will perhaps haunt his future.

"He has exceptional family support and to describe his family as devastated does not do it justice.

"Their fear of losing the defendant to an immediate custodial sentence is almost all-consuming for them."

He said Farrell, who obtained 11 GCSEs and a Btech distinction , is studying for an engineering degree and hopes to follow in his father's footprints and be a pipe-fitter on oil rigs.

He does paid and unpaid voluntary work and his behaviour had clearly been out of character and he is unlikely to re-offend, said Mr Bonner.

He stressed that although Farrell ran off without realising the extent of the victim's injuries when he read in the press a police appeal to find the attacker he handed himself in.

The judge, Recorder Simon Parrington, said that there was no doubt that the case crossed the custody threshold, but in view of the positive mitigation "I propose to take an exceptional course."

He sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered him to carry out 300 hours unpaid work.

He also ordered him to pay his victim £1,500 at £200 per month and £750 towards prosecution costs and £100 victim surcharge.

"You are extremely lucky not to be going to prison today," he told him.

The judge said that he had accepted it was an out of character and isolated incident by Farrell who has never been in trouble before.

"The references I have received are glowing and it is clear from them and the pre-sentence report that other than this offence you are a useful member of society."