A HISTORY of "managerial oversight and widespread failings" deeply embedded in Haringey Council's child protection services left children's secretary Ed Balls with no choice but to sack Sharon Shoesmith, the High Court heard today.

Dismissing claims that Balls was bowing to a media furore and political pressure, James Eadie QC said the minister did the right thing in calling for the dismissal of the director of children's services.

Ofsted inspectors claimed Haringey's children's social services was one of the "worst they had ever seen" when they inspected the department Ms Shoesmith, 56, managed in November 2008.

Mr Eadie, representing the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said that Balls, who ordered the inspection as a matter of urgency, had acted in accordance with recommendations that followed the Victoria Climbe tragedy which called for greater accountability from those in power.

Mr Eadie said: "The Secretary of State did not act in haste.

“He reached his decision for proper, sufficient and obvious reasons based in particular on the obvious concerns arising as a result of Peter Connelly’s case and on the damning conclusions of the Joint Area Review report."

He added: "The decision was taken against the backdrop of justifiable public concern as to safeguarding arrangements in Haringey and nationally and issues of public confidence as to those arrangements."

Lawyers acting on behalf of Ofsted also dismissed the idea Ms Shoesmith was the target of a witch-hunt and maintained that inspectors had entered the inspection with an open mind.

In a witness statement, lead inspector Heather Brown said: "When I begun the inspection, I was expecting, and hoping, to find that the case of Baby P was essentially an aberration. What we found was shocking, even for the highly experienced team that worked on the inspection."

She added the department was "the worst I had seen out of 15 Joint Area Reviews I have undertaken".

After Peter Connelly's death on August 3, 2007, a Serious Case Review was conducted by the Local Safeguarding Children's Board which Ms Shoesmith chaired.

Despite this, there were still an overwhelming number of systemic failures that were immediately apparent when Ofsted inspected the social services department more than a year later, Mr Eadie said.

He added: "They [Shoesmith and other senior managers] should have been even more aware.

"Yet despite the concerns, despite the backdrop, despite the tragedy, they were still as bad when the inspectors went in in 2008."

The court also heard that inspectors believed senior managers did have an understanding of what was wrong but had offered no solutions in addressing the problems.

The hearing, which was expected to have lasted three days, is expected to conclude on Monday.