The Prime Minister has appeared to rule out making misogyny a hate crime – saying he believes existing laws should be enforced rather than new legislation brought in.

Boris Johnson said tackling domestic violence and rape is his “number one issue” in policing and the way that way police and the criminal justice system handle crimes of violence against women currently was “just not working”.

He added the “anger over Sarah Everard’s murder is a symptom” of a “wider frustration that people feel”.

Asked if he believed misogyny should be a hate crime, Mr Johnson told BBC Breakfast: “I think that what we should do is prosecute people for the crimes we have on the statute book.

“That is what I am focused on. To be perfectly honest, if you widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem.

“What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel.”

Several police forces, including Nottinghamshire, North Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset, have adopted misogyny or gender as a form of hate crime for recording purposes but dozens of forces have not yet done so.

Associate Professor Loretta Trickett, of Nottingham Law School, co-authored a report which analysed levels of misogyny and hate crime two years after the policy was brought in by Nottinghamshire Police.

She said: “Boris Johnson’s comments display an unwillingness to listen to women’s experiences and to recognise that crimes against women are driven by misogyny.

Women’s safety campaign
A member of the public walks past the latest mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake (Niall Carson/PA)

“Indeed, there is a key difference between men who abuse women and men that do not and that is the misogynistic attitudes of the former.

“By having misogyny as a hate crime, you recognise that crimes against women are informed by hostility towards women as a social group and that they are experienced by women as hostile acts.”

She added: “The fact that our Prime Minister does not see the relevance of misogyny to violence against women and girls is deeply troubling.”

MPs have been lobbying to make misogyny a hate crime over the past few months.

Sarah Everard death
Candles, messages and flowers left in memory of Sarah Everard (Danny Lawson/PA)

The chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, the Tory MP, Sir Bob Neill, said last week that the Government should consider making misogyny a hate crime in the same way that racism was following the Macpherson Inquiry into the killing of Stephen Lawrence.

In July, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse told the House of Commons that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill should “enshrine misogyny as a hate crime” during a debate on the prospective legislation.

The Bill, which contains a wide-ranging raft of measures aimed at overhauling the criminal justice system, is currently making its way through the House of Lords.