Emma Barton is a fictional character of the Emmerdale franchise.

She served as an anti-hero in the 2015 series, the secondary antagonist in 2016 series, and the main antagonist in the 2017 series.

She was portrayed by Gillian Kearney.


Finn finds his Emma's address and meets with her in secret. While Finn, Pete and Ross are at a bar, Ross gets into a fight and is injured. Emma comes over to help Ross and is shocked when she recognises her sons. Finn invites Emma back to the village. Ross tells her that James had sex with Moira Barton (Natalie J. Robb) before she left. James is defensive and accidentally reveals that Adam Barton is his son. Emma blames James for losing her family, but when he reminds her that the real reason she left was because she tried to kill Ross when he was a child. Emma asks if James has told their sons the truth and he tells her he has not. Emma leaves and Pete later tells James that she returned once before, but he sent her away. Emma returns to the village and Ross and Finn try to persuade her to stay. She tries to talk to Pete, but he reveals that he knows what she did and will not forgive her. Emma befriends James' partner Chas Dingle (Lucy Pargeter), but remains hostile towards Moira. When Finn babysits Debbie Dingle's son, Emma comes over and Finn leaves her alone for a few minutes. When Pete learns this, he runs into the house and tells Emma to leave.

During an argument with James, Emma lashes out at him, causing a pallet to crash down on James and pin him under the load. Emma checks James to see if he is breathing and hesitates before calling an ambulance. Emma is defensive when Pete questions her about the accident. Pete tells Emma that he will keep her secret and she can stay in the village.


In October 2016, Emma later discovers that James had a one-night stand with Moira (who had recently lost her daughter Holly) and secretly retaliates by mentally torturing him at their new home. When all is discovered, a argument between the two leads to James knocking out Emma before she regains conscious and confronts him at the motorway. She ends up shoving James down into the motorway, critically injuring and subsequently causing a massive car crash that leads some drivers dead whilst all characters inadvertently caught in the scene are injured, though all nevertheless survive. James is taken to hospital, where Emma confronts him with a secret intention to pull the plug on his oxygen tank. She changes her mind though and ends up forgiving James before pleading with him to survive so their tenuous relationship can be given another chance. Those words, however, were unfortunately her last words to James when he suddenly dies after unexpectedly succumbing to his deteriorated condition, devastating Emma and his sons, thus making her a murderer as she was the one who shoved him down into the motorway earlier on. She later attends to his funeral along with her sons and many others; including Moira and her son Adam (who was unknowingly another son of James following his previously late affair with Moira).


  • Although she is subsidiary the anti-villain due to her redeeming purposes following her previous villainous portrayal in 2015, Emma later becomes the true main antagonist throughout 2016 as she is the culprit who inadvertently caused the car crash in the duration of the upcoming major storyline in October 2016; she caused this after deliberately shoving James into the traffic, critically injuring him and later attempting to kill him before she changes her mind, only for James to die of his deteriorated condition.