Police say attorney Larry Charles is a child molester who preyed on six girls as young as 5 years old.

But the disgraced barrister is not depraved - he's just demented, his attorney said yesterday in court.

Lawyer Angelo Cameron has asked to have Charles, 49, of East Oak Lane, ruled mentally incompetent and moved to a mental-health lockup such as Norristown State Hospital.

At the same time, Cameron pleaded for a bail reduction. Charles is being held on $25 million bail at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. Cameron refused to comment on the case after yesterday's hearing in Family Court.

Judge Alfred J. Dibona Jr. postponed discussion on both issues until next Friday, when results of a psychiatric examination should be complete.

The prosecutor pledged to fight both defense requests.

"The legal standard [for mental incompetency] is that the defendant is unable to understand the court proceedings and unable to assist his attorney at all," said Jim Carpenter, assistant chief of the district attorney's family-violence unit. "It's our contention that he is competent."

Insisting on high bail, he added: "He's a threat to the community and a flight threat."

Charles was first arrested in January, after allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl inside the Criminal Justice Center when it was closed for the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Police investigating that case charged him this month with sexually assaulting five other girls, including a daughter of one of his clients.

They arrested him last week after Bensalem police charged him with disorderly conduct when he overdosed on prescription medication in a Route 1 motel. Authorities haven't said whether the overdose was accidental or intentional.

In the more recent cases, police said some victims were relatives of the girl he was caught with in the Justice Center. Investigators also contend that Charles returned to the Justice Center several times to molest girls behind closed doors there. The cases involve girls who now range in age from 8 to 17; their abuse dates back three or four years.*