The BBC has said it fully stands by its secret filming of an Islamic council which mediates on Muslim marriages after the centre criticised the corporation for being "underhand".

The Islamic Sharia Council, in Francis Road, Leyton, was investigated by the BBC's Panorama documentary series last month following allegations it was ruling on cases it had no legal authority to get involved in.

An undercover BBC reporter posed as a woman complaining of domestic violence and captured staff on camera advising her only to go to the police as a "last resort".

Since the broadcast the council has said it takes a "harsh" stance on domestic violence and claimed the footage had been edited out of context.

But in response, the BBC has hit back and said in a statement to the Guardian: “Panorama fully stands behind its investigation into the workings of some of Britain's Sharia Councils.

"The programme was raised in a Westminster debate in Parliament the next day in which a government minister referred to the concerns we had raised.

"Senior British Muslims such as Baroness Warsi also called some of the councils' secretly recorded comments 'disgraceful'."

A spokeswoman added: "As the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal, said in the film: 'Most of them are absolutely fine but there are some …who are putting women at risk."

Sharia partnerships are not recognised under UK law as marriages and are often obtained by couples in addition to civil marriages.

Islamic councils can only issue divorces for Sharia 'marriages' and have no legal rights to rule on issues such as child custody.

The programme heard from a number of different women who claimed to have had great difficulty in securing Sharia divorces from their husbands despite being granted civil divorces, as well as claims it was ruling on custody issues.

It was alleged that some women who use Sharia councils are unaware that such organisations have no legal rights to impose conditions on custody.

But the Leyton council has denied wrongdoing and accused the BBC of having a "pre-determined agenda and stereotype of how shariah councils operate".