BORIS Johnson has been accused of running scared of his party’s nine-year record in power after repeatedly trying to limit his responsibility to the last four months of it.

Questioned about the Tories’ record on criminal justice in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, the Prime Minister said he had only been in office “for 120 days” and blamed Labour for the release of attacker Usman Khan from prison last year.

Appearing on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Johnson said a 2008 law passed by a “leftie government” was behind Khan’s release halfway through a 16-year jail sentence.

He revealed another 74 other convicted terrorists had also been released and were now having their licence conditions reviewed.

Khan, 28, who was shot dead by police after stabbing a man and a woman to death on Friday, was jailed in 2012 for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

He was released automatically on licence in December 2018 and electronically tagged.

Although both his conviction and release happened under the Tories, Mr Johnson blamed a Labour-era law, supported by Jeremy Corbyn, for automatic early release.

Mr Johnson said: “The reason this killer was out on the streets was because of automatic early release which was brought in by a leftie government.”

He said: “I’ve been in office for 120 days. That’s why when I stood on the steps of Downing Street we would put more money into policing. There’s Bill in the Queen’s speech to end automatic early release which I have campaigned against, and it was because of automatic early release that this individual was out on the streets.”

Khan was jailed after receiving a potentially indefinite sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP), a Labour policy scrapped by the Tory-LibDem coalition in December 2012

The following year, Khan successfully appealed against his IPP and the court substituted a sentence of 16 years when then ended after eight years under early release.

Asked if the Tory abolition of IPPs was therefore a mistake, Mr Johnson said: “No. He was sentenced under Labour’s system that allowed him to be released automatically having served only eight years.”

Pressed on the abolition of IPPs in 2012, the PM said: “This whole system of automatic early release was brought in by Labour.”

When Mr Marr said “You’ve been in power for 10 years”, Mr Johnson replied: “I’ve only been in office for 120 days.” Mr Marr said: “I beg your pardon, you’re leader of the Conservative party. The Conservative party has been in power for 10 years.”

Accused of doing nothing about the system for 10 years , Mr Johnson again said: “I’ve been in office for 120 days. We’re going to bring in tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders, and for terrorists.

“I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out on the streets. I think it’s absolutely repulsive, and we are going to take action against it.”

Asked if he would like to apologise for Khan's release under the Tories, Mr Johnson said: “The release was necessary under the law because of the automatic early release scheme under which he was sentenced. That is the reality.”

Asked about failings in the probation system under the Tories, Mr Johnson said: “Obviously I think we should be investing more in the criminal justice system.

“We were of course responsible for governing sensibly. I was Mayor of London for most of that period. What we are doing now under this new One Nation Conservative administration.”

Asked if it was indeed a new administration, Mr Johnson said: “Yes. It’s new in our approach and it’s new in the way we will tackle the issues of public service.”

He denied trying to “shrug off” the government’s record since 2010.

Mr Johnson was also pressed on problems in the prison system since 2010, including a 50 per cent rise in suicides, a tripling of assaults on staff, and a doubling of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

He said: “This is why this new Conservative administration is putting £2.5bn into our prison service.”

Mr Marr said: “It’s not a new Conservative administration.” Mr Johnson said: “It is.”

Mr Marr: “It’s the Conservative party which has been in power for 10 years.

Mr Johnson: “But we take a different approach.”

Mr Marr: “So it’s not the Conservative party that we look back at it?”

Mr Johnson: “I’m a new Prime Minister. We take a different approach.”

Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson was “desperate to avoid detailed scrutiny” in the campaign.

She wrote on Twitter: “How anyone watching this interview can conclude that Johnson has the seriousness, dignity, judgment or sensitivity to be Prime Minister is beyond me.

Perhaps the only question that has been clearly answered in this interview is why Johnson is so desperate to avoid detailed scrutiny in the campaign

Pete Wishart, the SNP candidate in Perth & North Perthshire, added: “This is awful and difficult to watch. He will take responsibility for nothing.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Boris Johnson has been completely exposed. He has spent this election campaign in hiding – and no wonder. On the rare occasion he’s put under scrutiny, his evasive bluster and lies are exposed for what they are.

“Given that the Prime Minister is content to mislead the country on the things that matter to people - justice, Brexit, poverty, health and social care, and our NHS - it’s clear that no-one can trust a word the Tories say in this election.

“Boris Johnson is utterly unfit to be Prime Minister. On policy, on leadership and on personal character, Scotland deserves better.”