Green’s Dictionary of Slang

high jump n.

[? steeplechasing; or of trouble so bad that one will metaphorically have to ‘jump very high’ to get over it; but ? image of death by judicial hanging]

1. the gallows, thus death.

[UK]J.G. Brandon Gang War 165: She was cryin’ [...] as though she knew as ’er ’usband, or whatever ’e was to ’er, was booked for the ’igh jump.
[Aus]R. Rivett Behind Bamboo 396/2: For the high jump, sentenced to death.
[Ire](con. 1890–1910) ‘Flann O’Brien’ Hard Life (1962) 80: I needn’t tell you he and several others got the high jump. But Lord save us, Fawkes couldn’t climb up the ladder to the gallows.
[US] (ref. to WWII) L. Cleveland Dark Laughter 115: For most World War 2 soldiers the concept of death was masked by euphemisms like [...] gone for the high jump.

2. serious problems.

[US]Ade Girl Proposition 141: He began to count the Years and decided that he was due to take the High Jump.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 34: Somehow he felt that he never would save any Money until he took the High Jump and became a Family Man.
[UK]W. Hall Long and the Short and the Tall Act I: You’ll just do as you’re told, or you’re for the high jump.
[UK]C. MacInnes Mr Love and Justice (1964) 184: You’re for the high jump [...] The Detective-sergeant’s been chasing after you all morning.
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 95: You’re for the high jump, sonny.

3. (Aus.) the criminal court.

[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/3: Among crooks, Sydney Quarter Sessions is known as the ‘high jump’.
[Aus]J. Alard He who Shoots Last 123: Did youse front da high jump?
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 31: High Jump Criminal Court.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] High jump. Court. Thus ‘to face the high jump’ is to go to trial.

In phrases

in for the high jump (also in for the jumps, on the high jump)

in serious trouble.

G.K. Chesterton All Things Considered (2004) 11: If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so.
[UK]Athenaeum 1 Aug. 695/2: ‘He’s for the high jump’ is a favourite expression meaning that someone is to be charged before his company or commanding officer. [Ibid.] 8 Aug. 727/2: ‘For the jumps’ (up for trial) .
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 119: High Jump, On The: A term used of a man entered on a ‘Crime sheet,’ and for trial for a military offence.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 115: I suppose in a fortnight or so we’ll all be for the ’igh jump again.
[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 65: The next one I hear talking will be in for the high jump.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 162: He’s for the high jump.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 45: When he suggested that I had masterminded the whole deal I knew I was in for the high jump.
[UK](con. 1960s) A. Frewin London Blues 91: Don’t shoot it over the furnishings or you’ll be for the high jump.
Lucy Wright Coke on the Rocks 66: If Terry thought he was in for the high jump he was right.