Theresa May has announced plans to put a 28-day time limit on the use of police bail, following concerns that people were being left in legal limbo as proceedings dragged on for months or years.
The Home Secretary said it "cannot be right that people can spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no oversight" as she launched a consultation on the time limit.
The consultation proposes that the 28-day limit could only be extended in exceptional circumstances through an application to a magistrates' court.
Mrs May said: "I believe we need a statutory time limit in place to ensure people do not spend months or even years on bail, only for no charges to be brought."
The Government's proposals include revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act so a suspect under investigation can be released without bail.
Mrs May also proposed measures to increase co-operation between the police and other public sector organisations so evidence can be obtained more quickly.
The Home Office said the proposed changes, the biggest reform in 30 years, would significantly reduce both the number of individuals subject to, and the average duration of, pre-charge bail.
The Home Secretary said: "This Government is determined to support the police as they work tirelessly to bring justice to victims.
"But it cannot be right that people can spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no oversight. That is why we launched a review to fundamentally re-examine the way pre-charge bail is used and authorised.
"I believe we need a statutory time limit in place to ensure people do not spend months or even years on bail, only for no charges to be brought. I encourage people to share their views and help shape these reforms."
The move follows a campaign backed by former Home Office minister Damian Green which warned that people were left "languishing in a form of legal limbo" as a result of open-ended bail.
Figures released in October showed more than 70,000 people in the UK were on bail, with around 5,400 for more than six months.