Det. Insp. Alec Hardy
Alec is an experienced detective from the city who has recently arrived in Broadchurch, wanting a quiet life after a scandal-tinged work history, after having been involved with a major murder trial in which the suspect was released free of charge after crucial evidence was lost. Initially he and Ellie are hostile to each other as he was chosen over her to head the investigation and due to their differing personalities and views.
- The Atoner: Hardy is still plagued by guilt over the botched murder trial he was blamed for.
- The Cynic: Hardy has little time for other people, showing no interest in the townspeople as actual townspeople.
- Dark Secret: The scandal that nearly destroyed his career wasn't his fault, it was the fault of his unfaithful wife.
- Deadpan Snarker: A fact that doesn't endear him to Ellie initially.
- Defective Detective: Hardy's a good detective, but he's heavily burdened by his past mistakes, the public's perception of him and his recurring heart problems.
- Determinator: Continues to work despite the fact that it's killing him.
- Fire-Forged Friends: He and Ellie initially do not get on, with her feeling that he stole her job and him feeling that she's too naive to be a good detective. They gradually grow closer as Ellie becomes disillusioned with her town, and during Series 2 he's her biggest supporter.
- Fish out of Water: He feels out of place in the small town where everyone knew each other and he was just an outsider.
- Good Is Not Nice: Hardy has no patience for his coworkers and is barely civil to the townsfolk at the best of times. He outright admits he hates Broadchurch. But he's still quite gentle with the Latimer family, and very supportive of Ellie during Series 2.
- Hidden Depths: He initially comes off as a sour, hard-bitten detective who cares about nothing more than his job, but he's a bit more human than that.
- Hurting Hero: In a lot of pain. Not just physically.
- Jerkass: Hardy has almost no concept of tact, especially at the start of Series 1, where he constantly berates Ellie for her naivety.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Always has his grumpy face on, but actually a lot nicer than he looks.
- Knight in Sour Armour: He may present a jerkass facade, but Hardy really does have a lot of empathy both for the victims and their family, and holds firm to his moral values no matter the cost to himself.
- Last-Name Basis: prefers this form of address for himself, and also insists on referring to his coworkers by their last name.
- Lead Police Detective: He's given this job, though it was supposed to go to D.S. Miller.
- Meaningful Name: Hardy is made of stern stuff. "Alec" is the Scottish form of "Alexander" or "defender of mankind".
- My Greatest Failure: He lost a key piece of evidence that allowed a murderer to go free. The resulting scandal nearly destroyed his career and has had a massive impact on his health. It wasn't actually his fault, but he took the blame.
- Papa Wolf: When dirty photos of his daughter are spread around her school, he shows himself to be one of these.
- Perma-Stubble: Gives him the nice scruffy detective look.
- Ship Tease: With Becca.
- Silent Scapegoat: His wife's mistake led to the Sandbrook murder case failure. He took the blame.
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: The only time he voluntarily refers to Ellie by her first name in Series 1 is when he tells her that her husband is the killer.
Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller
Ellie is Alec's colleague, and has a personal connection to Danny's murder, having been friendly with the Latimer family for a number of years. She has lived in Broadchurch all of her life, and her son Tom, who houses a dark secret of his own, had been best friends with Danny. Ellie is deeply affected by the murder, and resents Alec for taking the job she was promised by Superintendent Jenkinson. She acts as liaison with the Latimer family, relaying information which is given to her, and attempting to piece together the events leading up to Danny's death.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Presented as the sweeter foil to Hardy, it doesn't stop her from beating the crap out of the killer.
- Character Development: in her own words, the investigation makes her hardened; doubly so when the killer is finally unmasked.
- Good Is Not Soft: Empathetic and gentle to the townsfolk. The killer, less so.
- Happily Married: Says this word-for-word about her marriage with Joe.
- The Heart: Constantly reminds Hardy that he doesn't have to be a jerk all the time, and was part of the glue of the town before Danny's death.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Delivers this to the killer once the latter's caught. This becomes a plot point in series 2, when his defense attorney uses it to make it look like his confession was beaten out of him, even though she attacked him after he had already confessed.
Chief Superintendent Elaine Jenkinson
Elaine is Alec and Ellie's boss, and tries to settle Alec into life in Broadchurch. Although she is aware of his past, she does not use it against him, and offers him Ellie's promotion in her absence, having been on a family vacation for three weeks. Ellie is furious when she learns Elaine has given her job to Alec, despite being promised the promotion herself.
- Da Chief: She's the boss.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She's patient with her detectives and let's them handle the case as they see fit though she does get irritated at all the press leaks. The Turn in Your Badge moment is both for the sake of the case and out of concern for Alec's health.
- Turn in Your Badge: Part of the job as Da Chief. She finds out about Hardy's heart problem, and has him looked at. The issue is so severe that he's unfit for duty and she has him leave the force at the end.
DC Katie Hartford
A new detective to Broadchurch in series 3, Katie is an opinionated cop who quickly butts heads with Hardy and Miller.
- Break the Haughty: She starts her first big case rather smugly convinced that she knows everything, and gets proven wrong over and over.
- Dirty Cop: A downplayed and somewhat sympathetic example. In her desire to keep him safe, she reveals to her father that he's a suspect in what's supposed to be a closed investigation.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Frequently attempts to argue with Miller and acts passive aggressive when she's shut down. In her first appearance, she insinuates Trish is lying about her assault, in spite of her lack of sexual assault training.
- Never My Fault: She blames her father for losing her job, even though it was her own mistake not reporting the fact that she was related to a suspect to begin with.
The Latimer Family
Beth is Danny's and Chloe's mother, and Mark's wife. She works at the Broadchurch Tourist Bureau. She is completely overwhelmed by Danny's death, and struggles to cope, telling Ellie that she is further away from herself than she has ever been.
- Absurdly Youthful Mother: Beth is incredibly young to have a fifteen- and eleven-year-old. Justified, since she had her first child when she was fifteen.
- English Rose: Referred to as such by Carolyn.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: She seriously does consider aborting her pregnancy in Series 1, hating it for not being Danny and feeling it to be a parasite on her. Paul Coates and her husband talk her out of it, and she gives birth in Series 2.
- Outliving One's Offspring: She outlives Danny.
Mark is Danny's and Chloe's father, and Beth's husband. He is a plumber. After Danny's death, he began desperately grieving for his son, becoming determined to find the killer.
- Abusive Parents: Hinted at, and finally revealed in the Series 1 finale, is that he used to hit Danny.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: He is evasive during the police interrogation, because of his shame about his infidelity.
- Bonding Over Missing Children: With Jack.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: While he never acts on it, his anger over Danny's death only increases with time. He still hasn't resolved it after the Time Skip leading to his separation with Beth.
- It's All About Me: To an extent. He has a tendency to let his own emotions eclipse Beth's (something she eventually calls him out on), and often acts on impulse without considering how his choices will affect others.
- The Mentor: To Nige.
- Parental Hypocrisy: he chastises Chloe for her relationship with an older boy - despite having dated and impregnated Beth when she was underage (he 17, she 15).
- Rage Against the Heavens: When Paul Coates tries to comfort him."Your God left my son for dead!"
- Outliving One's Offspring: He outlives Danny.
- Your Cheating Heart: He slept with Becca the night of Danny's murder.
Chloe is Beth's and Mark's 15-year old daughter. She is a student currently studying for her GCSEs. Chloe is overwhelmed by her brother's sudden death, but her relationship with an older boy, Dean, is another source of stress.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: She seems to be this (although the death of her brother is at least a partial cause).
- Teens Are Short: Chloe is a full head shorter than her (not-particularly tall) mother.
- Took a Level in Kindness: By Season 3, Chloe has evolved into one of the nicest and most stable members of the main cast, even taking it upon herself to counsel Hardy's daughter about her troubles at school.
Danny is Beth's and Mark's 11-year old only son, and the victim of the murder.
- Dies Wide Open: As the series finale shows.
- Posthumous Character: Seen only in flashbacks (except for the short scene at the cliffs at the very beginning of the series).
- Troubled Child: His relationship with his family - and especially with his dad Mark - was very complicated.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Flashbacks show him getting into physical altercations with adults (i.e. the postman) and having a...relationship of an unclear nature with an older man.
Liz is Danny's and Chloe's grandmother, Beth's mother, and Mark's mother-in-law. She is a bursar at the local school that Danny attended. She is completely at a loss following her grandson's death, but manages to be the one who holds her family together.
- The Reliable One: The only member of the Latimer family to keep her head on at all times.
The Miller Family
Joe is Ellie's husband, and Tom's and Fred's father. Joe is a house-husband, but before the birth of his children, was a paramedic. He does his best to support his wife throughout the murder investigation, but appears not to notice his son Tom's strange behavior.
Tom is Ellie's and Joe's elder son, and said to be Danny's best friend, though Tom denies this. He is a pupil in the final year of primary school.
Fred is Ellie's and Joe's younger son. Joe has been looking after Fred since he gave up his paramedic job.
Maggie is the editor of the Broadchurch Echo. She is furious when her junior reporter, Olly, makes the decision to tweet the identity of the murder victim and make it common knowledge. She is determined to work with the police, and wants Olly to act with integrity as a journalist.
Olly is Ellie's nephew and a budding reporter for the Broadchurch Echo. An early mistake, in which he tweets the identity of the murder victim, leads the national press to Broadchurch, a decision which alienates him from his aunt, Ellie Miller, and his boss, Maggie.
- Ambition Is Evil: He isn't a bad person per se, but his desperation to make it big in journalism brings a lot of heartache to the town. Thankfully, he has enough moral fiber to start making the right decisions by the end of the series.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: While Maggie has a prominent subplot in Season 3, Olly is nowhere to be seen.
- Intrepid Reporter: He is determined to get to the bottom of the Latimer case, no matter the consequences.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It's his article, under Karen's byline, that sets off the lynch mob against Jack Marshall, leading to his suicide. Although he didn't mean to do it, and his article was sensationalized somewhat, it's hard to believe he had no idea what might happen.
Karen is a high-flying reporter for the Daily Herald, who is determined to get to the bottom of the murder, and to uncover the whole story.
- Ambition Is Evil: She's sick of re-writing press releases and wants to get back into the field, and sees the Latimer case as a perfect opportunity to further her prestige.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Initially she comes across as a rather nice woman who genuinely wants to help the Latimer family, bringing back Danny's teddy bear before it can be stolen by creeps. Later on it becomes abundantly clear that she is mostly in this for herself, manipulating both Olly and the Latimers so she can get ahead of the story(despite knowing the hell the press will bring down onto the town) and sending out an article that drives Jack Marshall to suicide. She also may have been responsible for at least some of the hell Hardy went through, doing her best to smear his name in the Sandbrook case.
- Determinator: Nothing will stop her from getting a story she likes.
- Intrepid Reporter: Like Olly, she's a bold reporter who isn't afraid of consequences.
- Pet the Dog: She advises Ellie not to talk to anyone after the fallout of discovering the identity of the true killer.
- The Mentor: to Olly. Crosses over to Evil Mentor when she encourages him to write a smear article on Jack Marshall despite knowing full well how the town would react.
Len is Karen's boss at the Daily Herald, and is desperate to get an exclusive on the murder before any of the other national papers.
- Bad Boss: He has no trouble exploiting his employees for his own gains.
- Jerkass: Rude and callous.
- Paparazzi: He's a Paul Dacre type, highly immoral and utterly callous in his desperate attempts to beat other newspapers.
- Pet the Dog: Despite his prideful jerky nature, he does allow Karen to pursue her story. In a deleted scene he gives Olly some cynical but honest advice about how he should consider employment outside of the dying news agency, and even tells him to stick with Maggie whom he feels is far more competent.
Rev. Paul Coates
Paul is the resident vicar in Broadchurch. He is the first person in whom Beth confides following Danny's death. He also tutored the local computer club, which both Danny and Ellie's son Tom attended.
- The Alcoholic: He attends AA meetings out of town.
- The Insomniac: Coates has struggled with insomnia for many years and takes long walks at night to help combat it, which initially makes him suspicious in the eyes of the police, as his church is just across the field from the Latimers. This proves to be Chekhov's Skill when he comes across Tom Miller in the process of destroying his laptop.
- Nice Guy: Probably one of the friendliest, most morally upright characters in the show, which makes his Shaming the Mob all the more effective.
- Not So Different: To Jack Marshall, which is likely why he's so sympathetic towards him—they're both hiding from a history of behaving inappropriately towards a child (Paul hit a child, Jack had an affair with one) that could ruin their current careers if it's found out.
- Sexy Priest: Young, attractive and trendy.
- Shaming the Mob: In one of his more awesome moments, Coates furiously tears into the busybody citizens of Broadchurch at Jack's funeral, angry that they have the nerve to attend the funeral of a man who they bullied to suicide.
- Ship Tease: With Becca. They start an affair in season 2.
- The Vicar: Of Broadchurch.
- What the Hell, Hero?: He delivers several of these throughout the course of the show, including to Hardy and Broadchurch as a whole, especially with regards to Jack Marshall's suicide. All are well deserved.
Susan is a local busybody and misanthrope, a former assistant for the Sea Brigade, cleaner and a physical marketing assistant for the local tourist industry. She prefers to observe Broadchurch's day to day business from afar, but takes particular interest in Danny's death, which happened not far from her home.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Her general attitude: when questioned, she's hostile and irritated. She also doesn't share possible evidence.
- Cynicism Catalyst: The sexual abuse of her daughter and the subsequent investigation in which she was blamed.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Susan used to be Elaine Jones, who was oblivious to her husband's sexual abuse of her daughter. The resulting investigation was very damaging.
- Hidden Depths: She has a tragic past.
- Jerkass: Susan is a rude, irritable loner who stays away from almost everyone.
- Pet the Dog: She loves her dog, and refuses to share crucial evidence until the police find it.
- Red Herring: There's a great deal of time invested in making the audience think she's the killer.
Steve is a telephone engineer, who initially stumbles upon the investigation when he is called to add extra telephone lines in the police station.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never quite clear if Steve is delusional or really does have a 'spirit guide'.
Jack is the owner of a local newsagent's shop where Danny used to have a paper round.
- Acquitted Too Late: When the true facts of his sex offense come to light, the media and townspeople have already decided to smear him.
- Age-Gap Romance: When he was 39, he had an affair with a 15-year-old girl just shy of being legal. When he got out of prison, he married her.
- Bonding Over Missing Children: With Mark.
- Dark and Troubled Past: It's heavily alluded to, but turns out not to be overly dark. He did spend time in prison, but that's as dark as it got.
- Driven to Suicide: By the media who paint him as a monster, drag his name through the muck and finally go after his deceased family. Humiliated and distraught, he kills himself.
- Hot for Student: He had an affair with his student when he was a music teacher.
- Trauma Conga Line: Starting with the police's suspicion of him, Jack is bullied, tormented and humiliated. He even has the memory of his dead family insulted on a national level by the tabloids, and he subsequently commits suicide.
Nigel (called Nige) is Mark Latimer's employee at his plumbing firm and is also his best friend. He is very close to the Latimer family, and often helps out with everyday activities such as cooking and cleaning.
- Demoted to Extra: Barely appears in Season 3.
- Hot-Blooded: He tends to act before he thinks. Then again, he doesn't ever get around to the thinking part.
- Laser-Guided Karma: His idiotic fear-mongering and relentless ill-thought Pedo Hunt lead to the death of Jack Marshall. Later, he finds himself in the negative spotlight of a scoop-hungry press.
- Pedo Hunt: Instigates one against Jack Marshall, which ultimately leads to Jack's death.
- Red Herring: Like Susan he's framed as suspicious, deflecting the investigation from him, him owning numerous weapons, some secret with Susan which culminates in her identifying him as the killer. After they find the real killer the detectives note the many similarities he shared with Joe.
Becca is the owner of the local hotel, where Alec is staying during his time in Broadchurch.
- Demoted to Extra / Put on a Bus: After playing a fairly substantial supporting role in the first series, Becca's screen time and relevance to the plot is greatly reduced in series 2, and she is not seen or even mentioned in the third and final series.
- Ship Tease: Slightly, with Hardy and the Rev. Paul. She actually starts an affair with the latter.
- Your Cheating Heart: She slept with Mark on the night of Danny's murder.
Dean is a sixth form student studying for his A-levels and is also Chloe Latimer's boyfriend. He is two years older than Chloe.
- MayDecember Romance: With Chloe. There's only an age difference of two years, but when you're a teenager, two years is can mean the difference between legal and illegal.
- Not So Different: Although he's too dim to realize it, Dean is in a similar situation to Jack Marshall's. Both are have difficulty dating younger women who are on the cusp of being legal.
Lucy is reporter Olly's mother, and Ellie's sister.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: the foolish to Ellie's responsible.
A middle aged woman who finds herself the victim of sexual assault at her friend's birthday party.
- Broken Bird: Was apparently, by all accounts, a social butterfly with numerous friends. The assault breaks her spirit entirely.
- Really Gets Around: Which, unfortunately, leads various people to suggest she was Tempting Fate.
- We Used to Be Friends: Her friendship with Cath falls apart after Trish confesses that she slept with Cath's husband.
Alec Hardy's estranged daughter.
- Stalker with a Crush: His obsessive crush on Trish makes him a prime suspect for her rape.
A taxi cab driver who regularly drove Trish Winterman before her rape.
The Killer (Joe Miller)
Danny Latimer's murderer.
- Accidental Murder: While trying to stop Danny from telling anybody about them, Joe strangles him to death by accident.
- Bald of Evil: Joe is the real killer. This is considered earlier when Nigel is suspected, as they are both bald and have similar builds and shoe sizes.
- Beneath Suspicion: As Ellie's husband, Joe remains off the radar while being very close to the case.
- Chekhov's Gun: The £500 and the mobile he gave Danny.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: Joe is a detective's husband who's Beneath Suspicion due to his marriage, innocuous nature and lack of involvement in the case. Joe is basically a background character.
- The Exile: In the series 2 finale, he's acquitted of Danny's murder...but his former friends and family members banish him from the town on penalty of death.
- Hidden Villain: He stays shrouded in mystery until the first season finale.
- Idiot Ball: Engaging in a wildly immoral illegal activity even before he kills Danny comes as particularly foolish, but not as foolish as perpetrating a murder when your wife is a cop, and worse, the detective in charge of the investigation.
- Implausible Deniability: Pleads "Not guilty" in the trial despite an earlier confession and all the evidence.
- MayDecember Romance: In his twisted, ill mind Joe thinks this is what he had with Danny as opposed to him taking advantage of a preteen boy. He later tells Hardy he was 'in love' with Danny.
- Never My Fault: Since he killed Danny by accident, he refuses to arcknowldge any responsibility.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Joe manages to game the system and gets away with a "Not Guilty," but is effectively banished from Broadchurch, or else he'll face some very well deserved mob justice.
- The Scapegoat: Joe allows Jack to be unjustly targeted for the murder, causing Jack to kill himself.
- Surprise Creepy: Joe is rather fond of hugs, which makes it rather creepy in hindsight after the reveal that he's the killer, as he gave Ellie a hug in the first episode exactly like the one he gave Danny before he killed him just hours before.
- Twisting the Words: Danny came to Joe in search for solace and consolation as a close friend to the family; Joe turned it way too far into something creepy and according to Hardy, no one will know if he would had stopped at that before killing Danny.
- Would Harm A Child: He killed Danny, an 11 year-old.
A salesman for his father's fishing business. The rapist of multiple women and Trish Winterman's attacker
- The Corrupter: Lures Michael in with booze and porn in order to groom him into a fellow rapist.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Is ultimately exposed as a result of a poorly conceived plan to frame Ed Burnett.
- Manipulative Bastard: Convinces Michael that he's a nice guy, has a disturbing degree of control over his girlfriend, and does a decent job of faking remorse when confessing that he helped Trish's ex put spyware on her computer.
- Smug Snake: His cocky attitude leads Ellie to suspect him almost instantly, even when she can't connect him directly to Trish. And in comparison to Joe or Michael, Leo has absolutely no regrets or qualms about his actions.
Son of Clive Lucas and friend of Tom Miller. The rapist of Trish Winterman.