KNIFE crime in the West Midlands has risen by nearly 20 per cent in the last 12 months, latest figures show.

The increase is something friends and family of Ryan Passey say they feared back in February 2018 when the man accused of killing the popular footballer was cleared of both murder and manslaughter despite admitting in court that he had "stabbed out" with a knife in a busy nightclub in August 2017.

Ryan's heartbroken mum Gillian Taylor, from Netherton, said she was worried the verdict, which the family believes was 'perverse', would "open the floodgates for others to go out with knives".

According to latest figures, published by the ONS, there has been an 18.8 per cent rise in serious offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in the West Midlands Police force area during the year ending September 2018.

The statistics show there were 3,108 serious offences involving a knife that year - up from 2,615 the previous year - and that 7.3 per cent of all serious offences involved a knife or sharp instrument.

In the year ending September 2018 there were 1,236 offences of injury and assault with intent to cause serious harm involving a knife and 21 out of a total 44 homicides involved a blade or sharp instrument.

The figures also show 44 per cent of all attempted murders were committed with a blade and 21.7 per cent of robberies involved a knife.

Jason Connon, spokesman for the Justice for Ryan campaign, said he feared the jury's decision to completely exonerate Kobe Murray of Dudley after the court heard how he fatally stabbed Ryan in the chest would only serve to "endorse people being allowed to carry knives and use them with no consequences".

Mr Connon added: "I honestly believe there is not an effective enough message being sent out by our courts to prevent people carrying a knife at present.

"There has been a more proactive approach and more effort put into tackling knife crime of late by community groups and charities that are working to educate our youngsters, but this will take years before we really see any impact on the figures."

He stressed: "We need immediate action. I believe our courts and judges have a big responsibility towards tackling knife crime, but time and time again they are failing victims and their families by handing down paltry sentences or as in our case no sentence at all. This is sending out a very dangerous message to our youth.

"The police state if you get caught carrying a knife it can mean up to four years in prison and an unlimited fine, but in reality very few offenders are being given any custodial sentence."

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said the rise in knife crime "further emphasises the need for more police resources" and he added: "The figures highlight the government's short-sighted approach by continuing to apply real-terms cuts to police forces' funding at a time when the pressures on policing are increasing. This is hampering proactive policing that prevents crime.

"I continue to have concerns about the increase in violent crime which has risen significantly in the West Midlands. That is why I am investing £2 million to tackle the root causes of violent crime.

"Even with the challenges we face, we are determined to get on with the job of keeping the people of the West Midlands safe and we are taking tough action.

"I’m also investing in preventative measures to divert young people away from violent crime, including programmes to provide alternative activities for young people at risk of offending and mentoring schemes to help young make the right life choices.

"Despite warm words from the government, we only received a standstill budget this year. The government needs to take note of these statistics and give forces like West Midlands Police the resources we need. These figures are testament to the need for more funding."

Stourbridge MP Margot James has described the increase in knife crime as "deeply concerning" and she told the News she backs a new plan announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid that could see Knife Crime Prevention Orders issued by police to anyone over 12 who is believed to often carry a blade.

The orders would give officers more power to impose curfews, send young people caught with knives to educational courses and restrict social media use to prevent rival disputes escalating.

Ms James said: "I agree with the measures announced by the Home Secretary, in particular the increased resources he is putting in to education and awareness.

"With regard to the role of social media I would go further, banning certain young people from using it to incite violence is a positive proposal, if it can be enforced, but the real prize is eradicating the incitement and glorification of violence that is amplified via social media by gangs and those under their influence."

Mr Connon said: "New ASBOs and stop and search powers are all tools that can help prevent knife crime, but when someone is actually caught in possession or uses a knife to injure or kill another person it’s down to our justice system and judges to ensure they deliver appropriate sentences.

"Then and only then will youngsters maybe think twice about the consequences of carrying a knife. A strong penal approach should be the only weapon against criminality."

The Justice for Ryan group is continuing its campaign for a change in the law to give families of serious crime chance to appeal against so-called 'perverse verdicts' in cases where jurors have acquitted a defendant contrary to evidence in presented in court.

To sign the group's petition go to