Shawn Woodward, who was convicted in a high-profile gay bashing that left a 63-year-old man with permanent brain damage, has been sentenced to six years in prison.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Jocelyn Palmer also accepted the Crown's request to designate the attack a hate crime, saying Woodward was motivated by "virulent homophobia."

The 37-year-old punched Ritchie Dowrey in the head on March 13, 2009 at the Fountainhead Pub on Davie Street. Witnesses testified hearing the accused say the words "he's a faggot. He deserved it. He touched me. I'm not a faggot," or variations thereof, after they detained him outside.

Dowrey was at the pub, a well-known gay bar, celebrating his retirement with friends. He is expected to be in a care home for the rest of his life due to his injuries.

Dowrey's friend Lindsay Wincherauk, who witnessed the assault, told reporters after the sentencing that justice had been served – but nothing can erase what happened.

"Mr. Dowry has no recollection of today, yesterday, years before. He's happy to see you but he's not the same person," he said. "It's as if he kind of died that day and there's a new Ritchie Dowrey, but he'll never be okay again."

Wincherauk said he felt nauseous hearing Palmer read her decision, but was also relieved that it was longer than past gay-bashing sentences. "Previous cases were two years less a day, quite often, and this is six years. It has to send a message," he said.

Community activist Janine Fuller agreed, saying she was especially pleased with the hate crime designation. "It's going to make people think twice," she said. "It's a really important calling card to the world that it's not okay to hit people."

The defence argued the punch was not motivated by homophobic hatred and that Woodward's record leading up to the attack was clean. They had requested a two-year sentence.

Woodward was found guilty in August of aggravated assault in the attack. Throughout his trial, Woodward maintained he acted in self-defence, saying the older man made several unwanted advances towards him during the evening, including groping him.

Palmer refuted his claims, saying Woodward was not sincere and the only horror he purported feelings was for the punishment that would face him if he was caught.