The BBC has apologised after screening brutal scenes in its popular drama series Silent Witness, which prompted nearly 500 complaints.

More than six million people saw the forensic pathology program on Sunday, which climaxed with a scene depicting the aftermath of a savage beating.

The BBC said it received 483 complaints from viewers who felt the story, which had a further instalment the following night, was "too violent".

In the footage, the twitching, moaning body of one character was seen in a pool of blood being kicked in a toilet cubicle. His attacker was then seen preparing to resume the beating with a baseball bat although the gory detail was not shown.

"We acknowledge that certain scenes may have been challenging but we filmed and presented them in such a way as to make sure that although as a viewer the implication was there, it was never actually shown," the BBC said.

Both programs had warnings about the violent content and the corporation said the series was known for "challenging stories" and "adult themes".

It added: "We don't feel the content of these episodes would have gone beyond viewers' expectations."

In a statement on its complaints website, the BBC continued: "As programme makers we take our responsibility to the audience extremely seriously and try to make sure we strike the right balance between compelling drama without being unnecessarily graphic."

It added: "We're sorry if you felt we got it wrong on this occasion."

PA