Lady of Justice
A specific offence of domestic abuse could be introduced to UK legislation, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.Getty

Prime Minister David Cameron may make domestic abuse a specific criminal offence, he said on Friday.

In an interview with BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Cameron said Britain needs to "get to grips" with the serious problem of domestic abuse in the UK.

He said: "Of course domestic violence is a crime. If you beat someone, if you abuse someone, if you abuse them psychologically, if you stalk someone, if you threaten, those are all individual crimes.

"There's a question about whether we need to have a specific offence as well – and we're very happy to look at that."

Domestic abuse is an umbrella term that includes physical abuse, threats, emotional abuse, sexual assault and stalking.

Each year, around 1.2 million women and 800,000 men are victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales, with one in three women and nearly one-in-five men experiencing it at some point in their lives.

Figures released by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) estimates that domestic violence costs the UK around £15 billion a year, of which £9.9 billion is spent in health and social care costs.

Currently, people who commit acts of abuse or violence against a partner can be charged with a myriad of laws including harassment, assault by beating, actual bodily harm and, in the most severe cases, grievous bodily harm. But there is no specific criminal offence for domestic abuse.

The Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign has criticised the current system for "focusing on individual incidents of physical violence" which "cannot reflect the ongoing psychological harm caused by coercive control in intimate relationships".

The move could help prosecutors to take more account of patterns of behaviour as well as individual incidents, campaigners say.