The escape of two inmates from HMP Pentonville has occurred after years of under-investment and staff cuts, according to Prison Officers Association.

General Secretary of the union, Steve Gillan, said the focus should fall on the Government rather than officers at the north London jail.

The pair, understood to be cellmates, are named as Matthew Baker, 28, and James Whitlock, 31, escaped from HMP Pentonville on Monday November 7.

A police hunt is continuing after the men broke out in an audacious escape discovered on Monday.

Baker was found guilty of attempted murder two weeks ago, having stabbed a man in Dagenham following a dispute. He had been remanded for sentencing later this week.

Whitlock was on remand after being charged with conspiracy to burgle over 19 alleged ATM thefts.

The men reportedly used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through bars before scaling a perimeter wall. It has been claimed that their beds were stuffed with pillows to make it look like they were asleep.

The incident has sparked scrutiny of the state of prisons in England and Wales following a slew of warnings about safety.

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Two prisoners have escaped from HMP Pentonville prison in North London

Mr Gillan said: “There has been under-investment in Pentonville for many years. We have highlighted our concerns.

“We know the focus now will be on Pentonville prison officers but the reality of the situation is the focus should be on Government and their budget cuts that have created this situation.

“The basics of security aren't getting done simply because there is not enough staff to deal with the daily tasks.”

A woman who visited the jail said an inmate had told her the two prisoners escaped through a cell window on the fifth floor. She said it was rumoured that they had used bed sheets to lower themselves down.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for information about the two men.

The Metropolitan Police advised the public not to approach the men.